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Maine Republicans look to ban sex ed and critical race theory as party platform

At the Maine Republican State Convention, party leaders and delegates made changes to the platform ahead of the coming election cycle.

AUGUSTA, Maine — As Maine's Republican party meets for its convention, many delegates are targeting laws about sex education and teaching critical race theory in the state's public schools.

The primary targets of the GOP's platform focus on what it's like to be gay, lesbian, queer, or trans. The battle is playing out in other states, too.

According to the advocacy group Lambda Legal, six states currently have laws banning LGBT curriculum in public schools.

Texas and Alabama take it a step further and require sex education teachers to tell students that being gay is "not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public."

Now Maine Republicans are considering similar laws.

The first day of the state Republican convention started with the party amending its platform to restrict the teaching of sex education and critical race theory in schools, and limiting what school staff can say about gender and sexuality. 

The platform also bans encouraging students from choosing their own gender, pronouns, or sexual orientation.

It is similar to Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill that Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law last month.

Among those speaking during the convention, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins told those gathered at the Augusta Civic Center, "Whether or not your favorite candidate wins the primary, when it's over we need to get along."

This weekend's convention will also feature some political newcomer including Ed Thelander, who is running for Congress in Maine's first district. The retired combat Navy Seal from Bristol says one of the biggest issues for him is inflation.

"We've gotta get it under control, we've gotta stop sanctioning America. We've gotta get our supply chain fixed so we can get back and live our lives," Thelander said.

He is running unopposed in the primary and is set to take on Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree in the general election.

Another newcomer is Liz Caruso. Caruso is a selectwoman for the town of Caratunk and worked against the transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power. She said it's important to have a rural Mainer in Congress.

"Mainers are crying out to be heard, to be honored, and to be truly represented. That's what they want in D.C,," she said.

Caruso is challenging former Congressman Bruce Poliquin in the primary. Poliquin declined an interview request on Friday but is scheduled to speak at the convention on Saturday.

Outside the Augusta Civic Center, half a dozen Mainers protested Senator Collins, citing her votes to impeach former President Trump and to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Inside the convention though, Collins' harsh words for Democrats were met with applause and laughter.

"We Republicans believe that every day is the 4th of July. Democrats believe that every day is April 15," she said to the convention.

In a press release, Speaker of the Maine House Ryan Fecteau wrote, "the Maine GOP's latest attack on Maine's LGBTQ+ community is not just disturbing, but dangerous. It shows that they are more interested in attacking fellow Mainers and relaunching culture wars from the last decade than actually dealing with real issues affecting Maine's hardworking families." 

Former Governor Paul LePage is expected to be the highlight speaker for Saturday.

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