Tula Biederman

I’m a new Mainer. Last September, I packed my belongings in a minivan and drove across the country to start anew in Lewiston.

Although I haven’t been here long, I already love it here. This is where I’d like to build a life, settle down, and start a family.

Maine is a special place. Despite the pandemic and all its effects, I’ve met some truly incredible people in my short time here, many of whom belong to Maine’s LGBTQ community.

As a queer person, choosing to move states forced me to consider more carefully the possibility that my new local government might not offer the protections against discrimination that I have experienced elsewhere. Would I need to scrub my social media of anything remotely queer just to get hired? Would potential landlords deny my application if my partner and I couldn’t convince them we were “just roommates”? When I’m ready to start a family, will adoption even be an option for us?

Knowing that Maine’s state laws would protect me and my community deeply impacted my decision to move here, to rent an apartment here, to register to vote here, and to start a new life here. Yet LGBTQ people in states across the country remain unprotected.

I recently attended a meeting with Sen. Susan Collins’ office to urge her to support the federal Equality Act — bipartisan legislation that would update federal law to include express and enduring nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans in every zip code in all 50 states. As a queer Mainer, this is personal to me.

It’s my hope that Sen. Collins will work with her colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to ensure passage of the Equality Act. For the first time in history, we have a real chance to secure these protections for 13 million LGBTQ Americans across virtually every area of daily life.

I’m grateful to continue to live in a place that understands the importance of protecting its residents from discrimination. Far too many queer and transgender people around the country are not afforded even these basic dignities. While 21 states and over 350 cities have passed LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, there are still 29 states that lack comprehensive statewide laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people. This patchwork of protections is unsustainable and leaves too many people behind.

When I moved to Maine last year, I drove through countless towns and multiple states that didn’t protect me or their LGBTQ residents from discrimination. With each stop along the way, I was wary of being kicked out of restaurants or denied motel rooms for being visibly queer.

Discrimination is still commonplace for LGBTQ Americans all across the country. And opponents of LGBTQ equality continue to file discriminatory state bills in an attempt to undermine existing protections in adoption, marriage and access to basic public services and businesses. A recent survey found that more than one in three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including more than three in five transgender Americans. More than half of LGBTQ people said they experienced harassment or discrimination in a public place such as a store, transportation or a restroom.

The Equality Act would ensure that all LGBTQ Americans can live, work, and access public spaces free from discrimination, no matter what city or state they call home.

Sen. Collins has vocally supported our rights in the past, and for that I am grateful. Equality should not be a Democratic or Republican value, it should be an American value. Everyone should be free to go about their daily lives — go into a store, check into a hotel, eat a meal at a restaurant — without fear of harassment or discrimination.

As a proud Mainer, I’m asking Sen. Collins to do whatever it takes to pass the strongest possible protections for LGBTQ people nationwide, and to compel her colleagues in the Senate to do so as well.

Tula Biederman of Lewiston is pursuing a masters degree in library and information science online from San Jose State University.


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