February Action Updates
There’s a new reality in Washington. From executive orders already issued, to rumors of executive orders yet to come, to the appointment of dangerous and unqualified people to powerful positions in our government, the new administration is already wreaking havoc on our communities and our political system.
There are new developments every day, and things are moving so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. As we move forward together in this new reality, we will do our best to keep you apprised of our continuous efforts to defend and advance equality for our community.
TRANSGENDER STUDENT GUIDANCE UPDATE
Last night, the Trump administration announced it was reversing federal guidance that protected transgender students. After claiming he would be a friend to the LGBT community, it took Trump just 34 days to break his word.
The guidance protecting transgender students, issued last May, served as a beacon for public school administrators and educators across the country. Without it, schools will face confusion, and transgender youth, who already face exponentially more bullying from their peers, will be caught in the middle. This action sends a terrible message to some of the most vulnerable young people in the country that this administration will not protect them from discrimination.
Withdrawing the guidance does not change the law, however. Most courts have agreed that Title IX under federal law protects transgender students, and schools have a legal and a moral duty to support all students.
Most importantly for us here at home, Maine people voted overwhelmingly in 2005 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Since then, the Maine Supreme Court and the Maine Human Rights Commission have clarified that the Maine Human Rights Act protects transgender students, and that Maine schools are obligated to comply with this state law.
So while we share the outrage at what is coming out of Washington, please rest assured that here in Maine our students have strong legal protections. And we intend to keep it that way.
MAINE LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
The new legislative session has kicked off, and once again EqualityMaine is hard at work as your voice in Augusta. First up: we joined our partners at the ACLU of Maine to oppose two bills that would restrict voting access for thousands of Mainers.
Our Program Director, Gia Drew, testified at the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee hearing against bills to restrict voting access
LD 121 - An Act to Require Photographic Identification to Vote
Many transgender Mainers face challenges in updating or even obtaining the ID’s that would be required by this bill. A person’s current ID may not list their name or gender correctly, or they may not have a photo that best reflects their current gender expression, creating a situation where a trans voter could be turned away at a polling place. Also, due to high rates of poverty, unemployment, and discrimination facing transgender people as well as the fear of disrespect or discrimination when applying, transgender people are disproportionately not likely to have a photo ID.
EqualityMaine opposes this bill.
LD 155 - An Act To Protect Voting Integrity by Establishing a Residency Verification Requirement for Purposes of Voting
This bill specifically targets college students who live in dorms, placing additional burdens on them to establish proof of residency in order to vote. Rather than creating barriers to vote, we should be doing our best to engage young people in their local communities and the civic duty of voting. We also know that today’s youth reflect an evolved understanding and acceptance of LGBT equality - to speak frankly, they are our kind of voters. From our experience with 6 statewide referendums in 17 years, we know that young people voting can mean the difference between winning and losing, and we will oppose any attempts to suppress their votes.
EqualityMaine opposes this bill.
Stay tuned for more updates on legislation in Augusta that will impact us!
SAFE SCHOOLS UPDATE
Partnership with GLSEN-Southern Maine
Our work to ensure schools are safe for all students has continued for a second school year. We've worked together to coordinate monthly regional GSTA Nights nights for students to gather, socialize, and learn some new skills to bring back to their communities. GSTAs (Gay, Straight, Trans, Alliances) are student-led clubs in many high schools and now several middle schools across Maine. Edward Little High School in Auburn hosted their first-ever event in January! Future nights are scheduled in York, Wiscasset, and Scarborough.
GSTA leaders, Ev and Vincent, presenting to their peers at the Deering High School GSTA Night in Portland!
2nd Annual Out On Ice a chilling success!
A fun (and very cold) time was had by all at our 2nd annual community fundraiser to support our partnership with GLSEN. The event brought together nearly 400 supporters to the Rink at Thompson’s Point in Portland!
SAVE THE DATE - 5th Supporting LGBTQ Youth Conference
This spring's conference is scheduled for May 5th at UMaine Farmington. If you’re an educator, student, or a professional working directly with LGBTQ youth, mark your calendars and stay tuned for more info.
Join us this Saturday for a public forum with Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project Director at GLAD (GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders). She will speak to the concerns our community has about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court. The event will be held at noon, Saturday, 2/25 at the Portland Public Library at 5 Monument Way in Portland. Free and open to the public.