Last fall, while pro-gay campaigners were furiously busy attempting (and succeeding) at keeping an anti-discrimination bill on the books in Maine, a quiet transition occurred in the state’s largest gay organization: local attorney Matthew Dubois was appointed to the presidency of Equality Maine, succeeding Rodney Mondor.
The group’s emphasis at the time, including all fund-raising efforts, was focused on the campaign, so the change of guard was administered with little fanfare, but now, as the group begins to determine and implement new goals, Dubois will be at the forefront of the efforts, including that red-herring issue gay marriage ... but not necessarily in the capacity you might think, at least in the short term.
Dubois says that, as president, his short-term goals for an organization that was formed over 20 years ago to pass a gay-rights law, are solid: to maintain the momentum of courting volunteers to help fend off what he sees as an imminent attempt by right-wingers to force an anti-gay marriage amendment at a time when the legislature is dangerously close to the Republican tipping point.
For that reason, he also counts 2006 as a pivotal year for an organization in flux to maintain momentum gained by the recent campaign. That momentum will be celebrated March 18 at Equality Maine's annual awards banquet.
Originally from New Hampshire, Dubois, 34, received his undergraduate degree at Northeastern University in Boston and went on to graduate from the University of Maine School of Law. During school, he decided that he would stay in Maine and practice elder law. He works with Tim Vogel, a longtime elder-law attorney in Portland, who brought Dubois on as an associate and, eventually, a partner.
According to Dubois, among his clients are gay and lesbian elders who, he says, face unique challenges.
“It is now the case that registered domestic partners are actually included in the inheritance laws in the same way a spouse would be. Of course, you have to be registered, which is a major hurdle or barrier for a lot of people,” says Dubois, adding that he chose elder law because of the unique, close interaction he can have with clients.
“People who self-identify as elders in this day in age come from a different time, and the openness that a lot of young people are comfortable with isn’t a part of a senior’s psychological make-up. I think that there are a lot of challenges for gay and lesbian elders in that people going into a retirement community or assisted-living facility sometimes have to hide who they are to feel safe. Workers at those facilities aren’t always sensitive to gays and lesbians. That’s another challenge. And, even getting people to be open with their attorney is tricky. We try to be open and I try to make people feel as comfortable as possible, but it’s definitely more difficult with older folks.”
At present, Dubois has his sights on making Maine a safe and friendly state for all gays and lesbians — not just older folks.