Portland, Maine Rolls Out the LGBT Welcome Mat
Portland, Maine’s picturesque, laid-back, gay-friendly seacoast town, is rolling out the welcome mat for LGBT visitors. With good reason: the passage of the marriage equality law this past fall restores a sense of harmony to the city that was shaken by acrimony and discord three years ago.
In 2009, the hard won Maine marriage equality law was overturned by voters after the opposition waged an aggressive multi-million dollar advertising campaign. Local gay activists worried that Maine’s reputation as a bellwether state, with its oft-heard rallying cry, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation," would position it to be at the forefront of a national movement hell-bent on overturning legalized same-sex unions in other states.
They went back to work canvassing their neighbors. Last fall, the pendulum swayed: Maine voters approved it again, paving the way for same sex unions this year. Maine joins two other states - Maryland and Washington - all of whom embraced marriage equity during last November’s election.
Revisiting Marriage Equality
During my recent visit to Portland, the spirit of this decision was trumpeted by Anna Schwartz, 31, and Sarah Holmes, 39, two champions of marriage equality who worked with a state-wide coalition to help to restore the law. They are clearly thrilled by the outcome, and, as it happens, are now in the midst of planning their own wedding. Their marriage ceremony will take place on New Year’s Eve at the Portland Regency Hotel and Spa in Old Port, Portland’s funky brick and cobblestoned historic district that hugs Casco Bay.
"Both of Sarah and I are activists in the Portland community," said Anna, who works as director of student engagement at Maine College of Art in downtown Portland. "We are both native Mainers. I grew up in Westbrook, Sarah is from South Berwick. We are both involved with the student population here, and we worked together with them to canvass our neighbors."
"It is very important for us to be married here," Sarah added. "We live and work here. We own a condo here. We’re voters here. And we’re pleased that Portland has once again embraced diversity and is now working with us to ensure it stays that way."
Sarah pointed to the work of Mayor Michael Brennan who has spoken publicly in support of LGBT rights, and to the fact that the police department has appointed a liaison on its force to work with the gay community.
"There are gay bars, Styxx and Blackstones, and gay owned places like Flask," Sarah said, "and we do our own version of Guerilla Gayfare every once and awhile when we all get together for a night out and meet, en masse, to a non-gay bar or restaurant to make our collective presence known. We’re also working on other political measures, and keeping our eye on the opposition to marriage. Our freedoms cannot be taken for granted."
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