Democratic leaders gathered in Portland’s Deering Oaks on Monday to tout Gov. Janet Mills’ record on LGBT issues, and to portray her opponent, Paul LePage, as a threat to gay, lesbian and transgender people.

“Everywhere the GOP has control they are targeting the LGBTQ+ community,” said party Vice Chair Bev Uhlenhake during the event to mark Pride Month. “The Maine GOP is preparing to do the same thing right here in the Pine Tree State, as they mobilize to reelect our virulently anti-LGBTQ+ former governor.”

Election 2022-Democratic Convention-Maine

Gov. Janet Mills speaks during the Democratic State Convention at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine, Saturday, May 14, 2022. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

Party members tiptoed around how Mills handled a state-funded Pride Month video for kindergarteners that was singled out in a Republican attack ad last month. The Department of Education removed the video from its website, and Mills called the lesson inappropriate but has yet to say why.

While LGBT groups consider Mills an ally, some transgender youth are worried about her reaction to the video, wondering whether it was the topic, the details of the lesson or the age of the intended audience that she found objectionable, according to MaineTrans.Net.

“It’s amazing how many more resources are out there for students, teachers and parents to support LGBT youth, especially in schools,” said Gia Drew, executive director of Equality Maine. “But we know there’s more to do.”

Classroom resources and lessons should be vetted by stakeholders, such as LGBT people, so educators feel confident they are teaching accurate information to students about this topic, Drew said. Some advocates didn’t like the way the now deleted Pride Month video explained gender diversity.


Party leaders and LGBT advocates at Monday’s small event said they don’t want to continue talking about the Pride Month lesson because it will only fan the flames of a hateful campaign to weaponize transgender youth and demonize Gov. Mills.

“I have no interest in giving that ammunition to the opposition,” Drew said.

But Republican spokesman Jason Savage said his party doesn’t care if someone is straight or gay.

“We believe everyone should be treated equally and have the same opportunities in the American economy and under the law,” Savage said. “And every single person in every category we just listed is being hurt by the absolute failure of Janet Mills and Joe Biden.”

This statement comes after the state GOP introduced a party platform overhaul on the convention floor that would make the teaching of gender diversity in public schools a form of child abuse. It also comes a month after Republicans made the Pride Month school video the focus of its first attack ad of the 2022 governor’s election.

Maine Democrats and a handful of LGBT people said Monday, a few days before Portland’s biggest Pride event, that the candidates’ track records make it obvious which candidate, LePage or Mills, is a real defender of sexual and gender diversity.


They highlighted LePage’s 2018 veto of a bill that would have banned conversion therapy in Maine. In his veto letter, LePage said “parents have the right to seek counsel and treatment for their children from professionals who do not oppose the parents’ own religious beliefs.”

In 2019, a year after taking office, Mills signed a similar bill into law. Maine is now one of 20 states that prohibit licensed professionals from administering conversion therapy to minors. Alabama, Georgia and Florida have gone to court to prevent enforcement of their state legislative bans.

“Conversion therapy is a harmful, widely-discredited practice that has no place in Maine,” Mills said in 2019. “We send an unequivocal message to young LGBTQ people in Maine and across the country: We stand with you, we support you, and we will always defend your right to be who you are.”

The gay conversion therapy ban is the biggest, but not the only, LGBT protection achieved during Mills’ first term, said Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, who sponsored the conversion-therapy ban and is the state’s first openly gay speaker of the House.

In the last four years, Maine has banned insurers from discriminating against transgender policy holders, restored benefits to military veterans discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and allowed children as young as 14 years old to seek a legal name change without parental consent.

With Mills’ support, Maine has eliminated old regulations that required people, including those who are transgender, to publish a legal notice when changing their name, simplified the process of changing gender on a birth certificate, and added X as a gender-neutral marker, Fecteau said.

In the last four years, Maine has defeated legislative efforts to ban transgender girls from school sports and transgender women from receiving services at women’s homeless shelters, and banned the so-called “gay panic” defense as a legal defense, Fecteau said.

“At a time where states like Florida are passing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, here in Maine we are going to keep saying gay,” Fecteau said. “Gay people exist. Gay people are our neighbors. Gay people are our friends and family. And gay people are our parents, teachers and students.

“And the speaker of the House?” Fecteau added, holding a pride flag in hand. “That guy is gay, too.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story