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Maine

High school students in Maine rescue Pride parade & festival

Maine’s motto is “Dirigo” Latin for “I Lead.” In keeping with that spirit a group of teens stepped up to make sure Pride happens this year

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Belfast Area High School/Facebook

BELFAST, Me. – Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay, Belfast is a coastal city of 6,938 people and county seat for Waldo County, 51 miles Southwest of Bangor.

The city is known for being a significant tourist destination in the region over the years due to its antique buildings, historic districts, theater and arts, delicious food, and opportunities to get out into nature.

This year it will be a destination for LGBTQ+ Mainers to celebrate Pride- thanks to some dedicated high schoolers.

The state motto of Maine is “Dirigo” which is Latin for “I Direct” or “I Lead.”  In keeping with that spirit, The Bangor Daily News reported that when no adults would revive the community Pride parade in Belfast, a group of motivated Belfast Area High School students stepped up to make sure that the event — which has been on a pandemic hiatus — happens this year.

The city’s first-ever Pride parade and festival took place in 2016, and became an annual tradition. But no adult organizers had come forward this year to keep the tradition going, the paper reported.

Enter members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which formed at Belfast Area High School eight years ago. According to the Daily News, Willa Bywater, 17-year-old president of the school’s GSA decided that keeping Pride alive, especially after the lock-downs and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic, was a critical need not just only for Belfast’s LGBTQ+ community but others as well.

Bywater and her fellow 20 club members secured a permit from the city of Belfast, found sponsors, raised money for banners, flags and other expenses and grappled with the procuring of liability insurance. Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy, a move that surprised and pleased the teens, Annie Gray, the club’s co-advisor told the Daily News.

Bywater noted that it has been a lot of work to organize the parade — but it’s well worth it.

“I think that this is the Pride parade for Waldo County, and it feels really important,” she said. “After all these years of COVID, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re all still here and still going.”

The students found support from local businesses the Daily News also reported.

Seth Thayer, a local businessman who was delighted that the high school students have taken the initiative to organize the event and that it will happen again this year. There’s something special about the way that rainbow flags fly from homes and businesses all over the city during Pride, he told the paper.

“The thing I love about Pride is that the whole town is involved,” he said. “It’s such an isolating feeling, to have to hide yourself. And just to see that visual support from people that you don’t know, just seeing the Pride flag, it’s a powerful thing. I’m excited that it’s going to happen.”

Thayer said he was glad to make a financial contribution to the students, who have been canvassing for donations.

“I’m really happy that the high schoolers took it over,” he said. “I think they’ll do a good job. Kids always bring a new energy to things.”

Those interested in participating in the Belfast Pride parade are asked to meet at Belfast Area High School at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4, and the parade will begin at 11 a.m. The parade will end just before the Public Landing and Heritage Park.

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Maine

Maine Democratic lawmakers kill trans refuge bill

Maine’s Judiciary Committee voted down House Bill 1735, a shield law for transgender people fleeing other anti-trans state laws

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Maine's Judiciary Committee voted down House Bill 1735, a shield law for transgender people fleeing other anti-trans state laws. (Screenshot/YouTube Livestream)

By Erin Reed | AUGUSTA, Maine – On Thursday afternoon, Maine’s Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, voted down House Bill 1735, a bill that would establish Maine as a refuge state for transgender people obtaining care across state lines.

The vote to kill the bill came after a relentless social media campaign from leading national anti-trans activists targeting Democrats on the committee with disinformation about what the bill would do. In the Thursday working session, Representative Matt Moonen stated that some of the language in the bill that has come under attack “did not further the goals” intended of the bill and moved that the bill “ought not to pass,” essentially recommending that his own bill be killed in committee.

The bill included several provisions aimed at protecting transgender individuals who travel to Maine for their care. Some provisions shielded patients and providers from investigations by other states, such as those currently being led by AG Ken Paxton of Texas, who is subpoenaing hospitals across state lines for medical information on trans patients. Other sections designated the arrest and extradition of transgender individuals and their providers to other states for “crimes” around obtaining care as a “lowest priority” for law enforcement.

However, the section of the bill that garnered the most media attention was the one protecting abused and neglected transgender youth. It proposed allowing judges jurisdiction over cases involving their presence in the state and also included measures to protect parents in custody disputes where one parent consents to the child receiving care and the other does not.

This sparked an intense pressure campaign from prominent anti-trans social media influencers and organizations, targeting the committee members. They received an overwhelming number of emails and phone calls, spurred by calls to action from far-right media. Libs of TikTok, known for posts frequently followed by bomb threats against LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, inaccurately claimed that the bill would “take custody of kids” from parents who oppose gender-affirming care; this post received 7 million views.

Other accounts, including Riley Gaines and Chloe Cole, a political detransitioner and right-wing media figure, amplified posts labeling the bill as a “transgender trafficking bill.” Meanwhile, right-wing media outlets with a history of anti-trans reporting, such as the Daily Signal and the Daily Caller, published articles echoing similar assertions.

Following the pressure campaign, a previously scheduled meeting for January 17th on the bill was postponed to January 25th. On Thursday, that hearing happened, with one of the cosponsors of the bill, Rep. Moonen, stating that despite the bill’s protections, it “ought not to pass” because there was language in the bill that “is not needed” to accomplish the goals of protecting patients and providers from out of state prosecutions. The committee then voted the bill down 12-0.

See the moment from the hearing here:

Following the hearing, large anti-trans accounts and publications praised the outcome. Meanwhile, local news media questioned local LGBTQ+ organizations on the result. Gia Drew, executive director of Equality Maine, said in an interview with the Maine Morning Star that she “expects the goals behind the proposal to be revisited,” stating that the bill was a “complex issue.” She also noted that voting down the bill would not change access for people in Maine and that this was “not the end,” adding that she expects the goals of the proposal to be revisited.

Maine rejecting the bill after putting it up for a vote is significant. Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have approved similar protections for transgender people seeking care across state lines.

Maine may be the first state with both a Democratic governor and legislature to strike down such a bill, and the second state in the region to see puzzling votes from Democrats over transgender rights. Earlier this year, a handful of New Hampshire Democrats joined Republicans in passing a bill that could restrict bathroom access in the state, a move that raised similar questions over the commitment of State Democrats towards protecting their transgender citizens.

You can see a list of refuge states here:

Gia Drew, Executive Director of Equality Maine, stated in an interview with Erin In The Morning that the bill was “probably not the right fit” for Maine and that “the climate has changed” over the issue, pointing to some of the complexities within the bill as well as outside disinformation attacks. When asked why the bill wasn’t amended to make it a better fit, she stated that she did not know why that route was not chosen.

Drew did express hope, however, for future versions of the legislation and pointed to prior successes, stating, “We were able to pass one of the most historic laws last year in that same committee.” The state had previously passed a law that allowed trans youth above the age of 16 to consent to gender affirming care without parental approval.

Future legislation on this issue is uncertain. There is no other pending legislation in the state establishing it as a refuge for transgender people.

The offices of Representative Matt Moonen and Senator Ann Carney were contacted for comment. Comments will be provided should they be received.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Maine

As Maine considers trans refuge law, transphobic far-right pile-on

The Maine Judiciary Committee may soon hear LD1735, a bill that would make it a safe haven for transgender people fleeing other states

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Maine State Capitol Building in Augusta, Maine. (Photo Credit: Maine State Government)

By Erin Reed | AUGUSTA, Maine – On Wednesday, January 15, Maine scheduled a working session on a bill titled “An Act to Safeguard Gender-affirming Healthcare,” a bill that would declare the state a refuge for transgender people fleeing hostile states.

In the past two years, similar measures have been enacted or issued through executive orders in 14 states and the District of Columbia. These laws have proven effective; for example, Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington was shielded from a subpoena that would have required them to share patient information across state borders due to legislation passed there.

In response, major anti-trans Republican accounts such as Libs of TikTok and Riley Gaines attacked the bill on social media, erroneously claiming it would require the state to “take custody” of trans youth being denied gender affirming care.

The bill modifies several aspects of state to protect transgender individuals within Maine’s borders. One section would prevent states from issuing search warrants or demanding the extradition of transgender individuals who have received gender-affirming care.

This is especially important considering attempts by some state attorneys general to investigate parents of transgender youth, including across state lines. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton infamously dispatched agents to interrogate transgender children statewide.

The Maine bill aims to ensure that transgender individuals and their families, who seek safety and medical care in the state, are not compelled to return to their home states by extremist attorneys general, possibly under the threat of arrest. It would also make arresting the parents of trans youth pursuant to out of state warrants the “lowest law enforcement priority.”

You can see this section here:

Another provision would protect abandoned or abused transgender kids, giving the state temporary emergency jurisdiction over the child if the child is within Maine’s borders and has been unable to get gender affirming medical or mental healthcare.

Importantly, this provision does not not imply, as some conservative accounts have proclaimed, that the state will “take away trans kids from non-affirming parents.” Rather, this provision merely gives judges temporary jurisdiction over a kid present in the state. The state would still have to prove to a judge that a transgender teen is at risk of abuse or neglect if returned to their family in the exact same way the state would have to prove similar things about a cisgender kid.

This provision is particularly relevant given the efforts of some Republican-led states to extend their jurisdiction over minors no longer residing within their borders. For instance, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a subpoena for medical records from Seattle Children’s Hospital.

In the subpoena, the state demands data on all trans youth that have either temporarily left Texas to get care or permanently moved from the state. Such attempts to employ long-arm statutes could potentially usurp the jurisdiction of other states over those who have established residency or sought asylum within these states.

Additionally, the bill would grant Maine jurisdiction in custody disputes where one parent resides in a state that prohibits gender-affirming care, and the other lives in Maine, where such care is not banned.

Considering that many custody cases involve cross-state provision of care and the transfer of transgender youth between states with and without bans, this clause enables parents in Maine to present their case to a judge and argue that gender-affirming care is in the child’s best interest. The bill does not require the judge to rule in favor of the parent; it merely allows the court to consider the argument.

The last provision of the bill would ban healthcare providers, practitioners, facilities, and similar institutions from disclosing protected healthcare information about their patients to out of state investigators.

In response to the bill, several right-wing anti-trans accounts issued viral calls to action, erroneously calling the bill a “child trafficking bill.” The account “Courage Is A Habit” spread a misleading graphic claiming that parents will be denied custody of their children and that it would “negatively impact parental rights.”

Libs of TikTok claimed that Maine would “take custody of your kids” if parents did not give them “sex change surgery.” Anti-trans swimmer Riley Gaines shared a list of email addresses to legislators on the committee, urging her followers to message them, and further meetings on the bill have been pushed to January 25th.

Should Maine pass this law, it would join 14 other states and the District Of Columbia in establishing the state as a refuge for transgender people fleeing unsafe states. You can see a map of other refuge states here:

Republican State Rep. Katrina J. Smith warned on “Fox & Friends” on Friday:

“Maine is going to open the doors to this and open the door to kids who meet someone on TikTok and they get the idea that they need this surgery or hormone replacement therapy and they’re going to grab a bus or someone is going to come pick them up and bring them to Maine and a parent is not going to do a thing about it.”

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Maine

Victory Fund honors Maine House speaker in D.C.

Ryan Fecteau is gay Catholic University alum

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Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau accepts the Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award at the Victory Fund International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 4, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — The Victory Fund on Saturday honored Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau on the last day of its International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C.

Fecteau — an openly gay Catholic University of America alum — won a seat in the Maine House of Representatives in 2014. He became the chamber’s speaker in 2020.

“Hate and intolerance will not derail us,” said Fecteau after Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith presented him with the Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award, which is named after U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “Our community will not be intimidated.”

The Victory Fund on Friday honored Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila, a gay man who is living with HIV. The organization at its 30th anniversary gala on Saturday honored former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and former Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

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