PORTLAND – The president of Maine’s leading homosexual lobby, speaking at a diversity rally during the weekend, called for full domestic partnership recognition across the state.
“We’re so proud of how far we have come, but also aware of how far we have to go,” Maggie Allen, president of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, told a Portland rally.
Allen was among the speakers at Southern Maine Pride’s annual celebration of diversity on Saturday.
Following the rally, hundreds marched from Monument Square to Deering Oaks, where an estimated 1,500 people gathered for food and musical performances. Thousands of people also attended Friday night’s 10th annual dance at the state pier.
The annual Pride Week began in 1987 as a way to display a collective spirit. A growing number of cities worldwide hold annual gay-pride festivals.
“Pride Week is a celebration of diversity and the accomplishments of organizations and groups that struggle with discrimination,” said Mark Holt, co-chairman of Southern Maine Pride, a nonprofit corporation.
Allen said homosexuals in Maine are making progress slowly. In 2001, the Portland City Council established a registry for domestic partnerships, and passed a domestic partnership ordinance that requires the city to offer equal benefits to city employees with domestic partners. Such measures should be adopted across the state, Allen said.
Portland has the third-largest concentration of lesbian couples in the United States and the 10th-largest concentration of gay male couples in the nation, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a clearinghouse for census data.
Five years ago Maine voters repealed a law to protect gays and lesbians under what is known as the Maine Human Rights Act. In the next legislative session, the alliance will lobby for a bill to allow domestic partners to inherit a spouse’s property if he or she dies without a will, Allen said.
State Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, told the crowd at Saturday’s rally that Maine’s homosexual community “has a lot farther to go to accomplish full and equal rights in terms of marriage.”
“We have to get full, equal marriage rights,” Strimling said to rousing cheers.