AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) – At the start of their two-day biannual convention, 1,800 delegates for the Maine Republican Party adopted a platform that opposes abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and sex education for children.
In action taken on the floor of the Augusta Civic Center on Friday morning, delegates amended the final platform to prohibit presenting sexually-based material of any kind to students prior to 12th grade.
Franklin County delegate Matt Martin had sponsored the ban prior to 4th grade; the convention expanded it.
“I wanted our children to be taught math and science and English in school and not be hyper-sexualized,” Martin said in an interview. “Saving our children. It’s plain and simple. It’s not up to the school to parent. It’s up to parents to parent.” The plank written by Martin additionally prohibits “promoting” hormone replacement therapy or surgical gender reassignment practices.”
“That’s child abuse,” Martin said.
The platform also calls for a statewide code of ethics for K-12 teachers that bans “racial scapegoating (i.e. critical race theory) in the curricula or in the classroom.”
After the most boisterous debate of the session, the convention rejected an amendment to remove the plank defining marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” Alicia Collins, a Kennebec County delegate, said during the floor debate, “If we take the definition that is in this out, then I believe we’re dishonoring God.”
Lewis Corvo, another Kennebec County delegate, said, “This is a progressive mindset trying to infiltrate our party.”
But Stephanie Anderson, a Cumberland County delegate and former district attorney, said, “Every person in this room knows or loves somebody who is gay, and for us to deny then the opportunity to form a lasting bond is, I believe, an error.”
Mark Andre, a Kennebec County delegate running for senate, said, “To hang this party’s hat on issues opposing gay marriage, things that have already been resolved, you are making my life as a candidate so difficult.”
Maine Democrats described the planks as part of a “hateful anti-LGBTQ” platform.
A Democratic Party statement noted, in 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill banning “conversion therapy” intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Planned Parenthood of New England criticized the plank for rolling back sex education, saying middle school students learn about puberty and healthy relationships, while high students learn about sexual decision-making, safe sex, and birth control.
Planned Parenthood communications director Amy Cookson said, “Sex education works. It gives young people the knowledge and skills they need for a lifetime of good health and happiness.”
The Maine GOP platform says Republicans “believe in the sanctity of human life – from conception to natural death” but doesn’t specify how they would curtail abortion rights. The platform calls for eliminating all state income taxes — a centerpiece of Paul LePage’s campaign to return as governor. Party leaders hope for a “red wave” this fall to flip 10 House seats and five Senate seats to retake legislative majorities.
“We have the candidates. We have purpose,” Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, of Oxford, the House Minority Leader, told the crowd. “Be the wave that brings prosperity, better jobs, and parental choice.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins addressed the convention and touted national Republican themes.” Do you want the highest inflation rate in more than 40 years,” Collins asked the crowd rhetorically. “Then this would be a good year to vote Republican.”
Collins continued, “There is nothing wrong with our government that a good coat of red paint on the walls won’t fix.”
In the name of election security, the state party platform demands proof of citizenship to register to vote, presenting photo ID to cast a ballot, and requiring election officials to hand-count all ballots — no more optical scanners.
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows opposes the idea, saying it “would increase chaos and undermine trust in our democracy.”
Bellows said in a written statement, “The majority of Maine cities and towns use tabulators to tally votes because they’re more accurate and more efficient than hand-counting. If all Maine cities and towns needed to count every race on every ballot by hand, we’d need an untold number of more election workers and hours, and results couldn’t possibly be available in a timely way following the election, much less on election night.”
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