With a backdrop of music hits from 1984 by DJ Foxy, the EqualityMaine Gala marked the 35th anniversary of the state’s oldest and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization with a record crowd of 720 supporters on April 6 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.

At $100 a head, the gala included a host reception, cocktail party, live and silent auctions, dinner and awards (and an after-party at the Portland House of Music and Events). The dinner program opened with a Broadway-style performance by Cast Aside Productions of “I Am What I Am” from the musical “La Cage aux Folles,” followed by remarks by U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, who serves on the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in Washington, D.C.

“Statistically, I think there’s a good chance I served with a gay man,” said Golden, who joined the Marines during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” years. “I didn’t know. But any one of them would have given their lives for me, and I them. Who would I be if I came home from that and didn’t fight for them to have every right?”

Golden warmed up the crowd for Gov. Janet Mills, who was received with a full standing ovation. “It’s time for all LBGTQ+ people in the state of Maine to know they are respected,” Mills said. “The road has been long and there are miles ahead in the fight for full equality, but I am proud to walk hand in hand with you.”

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Great Pioneer Award to South Portland resident Ian-Meredythe Lindsey, who identifies as neither female nor male and challenged the state to add a non-binary designation on state-issued IDs and licenses.

“I went into the BMV and I had handwritten a box saying ‘non-binary’ and had my therapist sign it,” Lindsey said. “I knew they wouldn’t be able to accommodate it but that they had to update their systems.”

The temporary measure is an “X” sticker on the back of the license, Lindsey said, adding that a more official non-binary option is due to roll out in July.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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