My dad’s parents divorced when he was a toddler, and he was raised mostly on Deer Isle by his mother, Shirley, and Shirley’s longtime partner, Joan.

Shirley was a complicated woman, and suffered from untreated mental illness. Victor, my paternal grandfather, was out of the picture. So my dad’s primary parental figure during his somewhat unorthodox childhood was Joan, who my family always called “Grandma Joanie.” Unfortunately, after decades together, Shirley became unsustainably unstable, and Grandma Joanie had to leave her. Joan had no claim to their property or to Dad. In fact, Shirley kicked Dad out of the house when he was 17 and cut him out of her will. I often think of how different Dad’s life would have been, and how much heartache could have been avoided, if Shirley and Joan had been legally married.

That’s one of the reasons I voted for Susan Collins for U.S. Senate in 2014 – when, in my defense, I was much less politically astute and aware than I am today. The “debate” over gay marriage was in full swing, and I really thought she could be a moderate voice of reason in the Republican Party and explain to her colleagues that letting gay people get married and giving LGBTQ Americans equal rights and protections under the law would not cause the downfall of society as we knew it (which was the conservative attitude at the time). After all, Susan Collins is pretty clearly not a fire-and-brimstone, baptized-in-the-blood right-wing evangelical Christian. On a personal level, she seems to be fine with the existence of queer people.

But on a political level, she is willing to throw us under a bus.

In 2019, Susan Collins co-sponsored the Equality Act in the Senate, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In June 2020, Collins tweeted, “Congress should also pass the Equality Act & amend the Civil Rights Act to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity & sexual orientation.” Strong words, and ones I agree with. As a bisexual Mainer, I should be treated the same way when I’m dating a woman as when I’m dating a man. (Not that I’m dating anyone of any gender right now, but that’s a problem that even Congress can’t fix.) There’s a stereotype about bisexuals being “greedy.” I admit, sometimes I do feel greedy, because depending on what day of the week it is, I need both reproductive rights and queer rights. I guess you can call me the Grinch, because I will never stop demanding both of those things from my government.

It’s been less than a year since her supportive tweet, and Sen. Collins has done a backflip that would make an Olympic gymnast proud. She has withdrawn her co-sponsorship of the Equality Act, leaving it potentially dead in the water of a closely divided Senate. And she has not explained why.


Collins told the Washington Blade last Monday evening: “There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision. Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not (given) last year.” She did not explain what revisions she was looking for. I contacted her office as a constituent who would really like federal protection from discrimination, asking what revisions she was referencing and if she would vote for or against the Equality Act, but I have not heard back from her office. Her actions have left millions of LGBTQ Americans, including myself, in the lurch. And most of them aren’t lucky enough to live in Maine, which has state anti-discrimination protections.

One possible explanation comes from Riley Ploch, the digital director for the 2020 Collins campaign, who tweeted at me: “Speaking of failed strategies, (the Human Rights Campaign) opposing its only Senate R ally was a bad move.”

The Human Rights Campaign is a large organization for LGBTQ equality. In 2020, they endorsed Sara Gideon for Senate instead of Susan Collins. This makes perfect sense to me – the Democratic Party is much friendlier to queer rights, while the Republican Party has been using us as a punching bag for decades. (Now that most Americans aren’t scared of gay people anymore, the Republicans have moved on to fear mongering about transgender people.) But what doesn’t make sense is withholding civil rights protections from LGBTQ citizens because you’re mad at missing out on an endorsement.

If Susan Collins doesn’t think her LGBTQ constituents deserve federal protection, then she should look us in the eye and explain why.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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