Planning a trip to midcoast Maine for next summer? If you’re half of a gay or lesbian couple, plan carefully.
It’s unfortunate, but same-sex couples have to carefully consider whether they’ll be welcomed, cold-shouldered, harassed or even assaulted for the simple act of holding hands in the community where they live or in a community to which they travel. It is reasonable and prudent to ask whether Maine is a gay-safe travel destination, and there isn’t a single answer. On November 3, 2009, Mainers came out to the polls to narrowly outlaw the legal marriage rights of gay and lesbian people. That vote was unevenly dispersed, with some towns widely affirming gay and lesbian marriage equality and others strongly rejecting it. Vote results for the towns of Maine can be your guide: where are the gay-friendly places of Maine? Where in Maine are you unwelcome?
Today let’s look at Knox County, Maine, a coastal county including the west side and islands of Penobscot Bay. To create the map below, I’ve gathered election results for the towns within Knox County and color coded them, with blue towns being the most supportive of same-sex marriage and green towns being moderately supportive of marriage equality. Pink towns, on the other hand, are those that voted with a majority in opposition to marriage equality; yellow towns would signify those towns that rejected gay and lesbian people getting married by a large margin.
You may have heard that island people are an unwelcoming lot, but that’s not the case for the islands of Knox County. Vinalhaven, North Haven, Isle au Haut and the remote island of Matinicus all turned out to affirm marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, by large margins on three of the four islands.
The rest of Knox County is more of a mixed bag. Camden, Rockport, and Rockland (three towns of fewer than 10,000 people) form a hub of tolerance on the coast, making a good home base for both outdoors and cultural activities. For a more quiet and remote Maine experience on the mainland, consider the St. George Peninsula; ferries depart from Port Clyde to Monhegan Island and kayaks take advantage of the sweet spot between the coast and the protecting islands just offshore. And is Hope hip? New Yorkers may snort at the suggestion, but that city has millions of people at its disposal. What town of a thousand people scattered among wooded hills do you know of that throws together a jazz festival? The vote in Hope demonstrates an open attitude to life’s possibilities.
As for the rest of Knox County, Maine? Well, herm. Friendship isn’t friendly and Union doesn’t respect your union. The rest of the towns of Knox County don’t want your kind or respect your rights; why visit the more intolerant towns when natural beauty and the social grace of respect are close at hand?