AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party adopted a platform aiming to limit teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools at the party’s convention on Friday, mirroring efforts in Republican-controlled states in the past year.
The platform, finalized just after the convention opened at the Augusta Civic Center, is only symbolic and does not amount to a complete listing of the policy areas that could decide elections this year. But it highlights issues that have gained salience among national and state Republican activists compared with previous election cycles, including issues relating to gender and sexual orientation that were scantly debated a few years ago.
The platform outlines other issues already in play during the early days of the 2022 gubernatorial race between former Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, including LePage’s proposal to eliminate state income tax. It also reiterates long-standing Republican goals including welfare reform and the enactment of so-called right to work laws that limit the power of labor unions.
Cultural issues got greater attention on the floor on Friday, with delegates adopting amendments aiming to limit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender, along with critical race theory, in public schools, an issue not included in previous platforms.
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The specifics included defining teaching or promotion of biological genders other than male or female as child sexual abuse, with a limited carve-out for accepting people who exhibit physical intersex traits at birth, and banning reading lists or curricula that encourage students to “choose” their own gender, sexual orientation or pronouns.
The Maine platform already included a position calling for a ban transgender girls from competing in women’s sports in public schools. Legislatures in Republican-controlled states including Iowa, Texas and Arizona have recently passed legislation on the issue.
An amendment aiming to remove language from the platform that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman was rejected after a lengthy debate. That leaves opposition to same-sex marriage as the official party position, even though it has been legal in Maine since 2012 and recognized federally as a constitutional right since 2015.
Democrats blasted the change, with House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, saying Republicans were “more interested in relaunching culture wars” than helping Mainers.
Among the delegates who spoke in favor of the same-sex marriage change was Mark Andre, a Republican running for the Waterville-area Maine Senate seat, saying the party was making things harder for candidates by adopting an unpopular position on a decided issue.
“We are trying to unify the party to get rid of the rampant inflation facing the state,” he said. “We have very big issues in front of us, and to hang this party’s hat on issues of opposing gay marriage, things that have already been resolved, you are making my life as a candidate so difficult.”