Friday, November 11, 2016

Portland, Maine

Written by  David Placher
Blackstones, Portlands oldest gay bar Blackstones, Portlands oldest gay bar

Cool, Coastal, Close

Portland, Maine, is a wonderful city to visit for a weekend trip from Baltimore. Located on the Casco Bay, offshore Portland is replete with awesome islands. On land’s edge, the city’s waterfront features restaurants, shops, and working finishing wharves. Portland also has an inclusive feel, with several LGBT venues, including Blackstones, Portland’s oldest gay bar, and Styxx, a popular gay club. The state, however, has a very complex LGBT history, filled with setbacks and successes. Maine recognizes this roller coaster and supports efforts to preserve its LGBT history. The LGBT community in Maine continues to grow. Recently, Bustle news, a media outlet that focuses on women’s issues, rated Maine as one of the best places to live for LGBTers.

Traveling to Maine on a tight budget requires a small amount of planning because a direct flight to Portland’s small airport can be expensive. However, a trip from Baltimore to Boston, a city with a larger airport, on Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, or Spirit can cost around $45 on special deals. A return flight is around the same. (You may have to fly in on one airline and out on another, so plan.) The drive from Boston to Portland is about an hour-and-a-half. Car rentals can cost as little as $22 each day, plus the extras. If you use a discount hotel search web site – such as—you can find a three-star hotel for as little as $71 a night. A total weekend trip can be as little as $320.

Maine is the 42nd most populous state. It’s known for its cold climate, rocky coastline, mountains, thick forests, picturesque waterways, and its seafood -- more specifically, its lobsters. Maine’s history is founded on being independent. At one time, Maine was part of Massachusetts – until 1820, when it voted to secede. On March 15th, 1820, it was admitted into the U.S. as the 23rd state. Maine’s original capital was Portland, until it moved to Augusta in 1832 to make it more central within the state.

The LGBT movement gained traction in 1976, when Maine repealed its statutory criminalization of same-sex sexual activity. However, Maine took a negative view towards gay marriage and banned it in 1997. In 2004, Maine allowed partnerships for same-sex couples, and eventually passed a law on May 6th, 2009 to allow same-sex marriage. However, Maine voters disagreed with the state legislator’s decision and on November 3rd of that year repealed it by referendum. On November 7th, 2012, a majority of Maine voters by referendum legalized same-sex marriage. (This all predates the June 26th, 2015 Supreme Court favorable decision towards gay marriage.) Maine permits single LGBT persons and same-sex couples to adopt. It also has hate-crime laws that explicitly addresses sexual orientation, but it does not address violence based on gender identity.

The LGBT history of Maine is being preserved by the University of Southern Maine. In 1997, it established the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity. Its goal is to collect primary and secondary historical materials on the experiences of diverse groups in Maine.

On an election side note: Maine (and Nebraska) applies its electoral votes to a presidential candidate differently. Maine has a total of four electoral votes (two congressional districts and two U.S. senators) and Maine allocates two electoral votes to the popular vote winner, and then one each to the popular vote winner in each congressional district. This creates multiple popular vote contests, in which could lead to a split electoral vote. This structure is distinguishable from almost all the other states because the others use a “winner take all” system.

Maine’s LGBT movement has made progress within the last few decades. Although it needs to move further to address gender-identity issues, Maine is moving in the right direction. With Maine being a short trip from Maryland, this place should be on anyone’s travel list.


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