On June 15, the Supreme Court of the United States made the inclusion of LGBT people under the umbrella protections of the federal civil rights law the law of the land. This proposition was first proposed in Maine by Portland’s great African American activist, Gerry Talbot, in 1974, when he successfully moved to have it added to the Maine Democratic Party platform.

In 1977, as a legislator, he introduced an amendment to the Maine Human Rights Act to add gay people to the protections of that law. It took almost 30 years and countless amendments and elections to achieve success in Maine. It took more than 50 years for civil rights protections to be extended to all 50 states.

Gerry Talbot is old now, but then so am I. Old enough to remember the virulent hatred of gay people that used to be common in Maine, old enough to remember how dangerous it could be in certain situations to be known as gay. Gay people were so oppressed back then that we were entirely dependent on our straight allies to press our case. Fortunately we had Gerry Talbot, who understood the pain of discrimination because of his own experience as a Maine African American.

We in the gay community have long modeled our struggle for equality on the Black civil rights movement. Black leaders have long been our heroes and our indispensable allies, as we are theirs.

We know from experience – Black Lives Matter!

Sadhbh Neilan

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