This June, I am proud to join with Maine’s diverse LGBTQ+ community and celebrate their history, hope, joy, individuality, power, progress, resilience and strength. Although we designate a single month to Pride, I recognize that Pride is a yearlong movement to secure full dignity, equality and respect for all LGBTQ+ Mainers. It’s an effort to encourage people to accept themselves, as well as to be accepted by their peers — to feel comfortable, safe and seen. No matter where you are in your personal journey of becoming who you are meant to be, you have value and worth.

Anne Carney

Across the country, some elected officials are attacking the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender people. Not so in Maine. We have established and defended protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Maine.

Two years ago we banned the practice of conversion therapy, which is a harmful practice that tries to convince a person to adopt a straight, cisgender identity instead of embracing their true gender identity or sexual orientation. This practice is not based on medical evidence and has been rejected by the American Medical Association and the medical profession.

As stated by the AMA, “Evidence has also shown that conversion therapy can be harmful, increasing suicidal behaviors and causing significant psychological distress, anxiety, internalized homophobia, self-blame, intrusive imagery and sexual dysfunction.” Only 20 states have a ban on conversion therapy, and I’m proud Maine is one of them.

My colleagues and I also have expanded access to HIV prevention medication. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) is a medication that dramatically reduces the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, which continues to affect the LGBTQ+ community and many others within our state. Health insurance companies in Maine are now required to cover the cost of PreP and the bloodwork and tests that are necessary every three months while someone is on PreP. If you need help getting PreP, please contact Planned Parenthood or the Frannie Peabody Center.

The Gilead Advancing Access Program also offers generous coupons that can help people afford the high co-pays for some PreP medications. You can visit gileadadvancingaccess.com to learn more.

Advertisement

We also enacted laws aimed at preventing discrimination against Mainers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Health insurance coverage is now more inclusive, and Mainers can make driver licenses and birth certificates consistent with their gender identity. In addition, my colleagues and I passed LD 1786, legislation I proposed to address inconsistencies within Maine’s non-discrimination statutes.

Gov. Janet Mills signed this into law in a ceremony attended by a broad group of advocates and legislators. The updated statutes protect LGBTQ+ Mainers’ access to justice and ensure that the right to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is known to all in our state. As Senate chair of the Judiciary Committee, I am particularly proud of the committee’s work to prevent discrimination in Maine.

While we made progress for the LGBTQ+ community, we also defeated bills that sought to roll back protections and rights, including bills that would have banned transgender Mainers from shelters and youth sports. These bills will continue to come before us, and we will continue to oppose them.

I hope you will celebrate Pride during the month of June, with your friends and your families, including your chosen families. Consider attending a local Pride event, wearing a rainbow, or flying a flag. Maybe you’ll be inspired by someone’s coming out story and personal truth on Facebook or Instagram. However you celebrate, this is your month. Be bold, be you, be there for the people you love.

To get connected with Maine’s LGBTQ+ community, please go to equalitymaine.org. Once there, you’ll find events, programs, resources and more. If you ever need assistance from me, please contact me directly at [email protected] or my office at 207-287-1515. Happy Pride!

Anne Carney represents Maine Senate District 29, which consists of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough. She can be reached at 207-287-1515 [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.