Under attack by a whisper campaign about his sexual orientation, Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine came out today in a newspaper column and argued that being gay shouldn't matter in whether voters pick him as their next governor.
"I wasn’t surprised to learn about the whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls some of the people opposed to my candidacy have been using to raise questions about my personal life," he wrote in a column published by the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald, and the Associated Press. "They want people to question whether I am gay. Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: 'Yes, I am. But why should it matter?'"
Michaud has represented Maine's 2nd Congressional District for six terms and is running for governor in 2014 against Republican incumbent and Tea Party adherent Paul LePage, who is opposed to marriage equality, though it's the law in his state. LePage made headlines this year for a rude comment about sodomy that earned him praise from the antigay wing of his party. In a war of words with a Democratic state senator, LePage said, "He's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline."
Michaud, a Democrat, has been a supporter of LGBT rights in Congress, pressing for passage of a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that banned discrimination based on gender identity. He is now the seventh member of Congress who is openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Michaud's spokesman told the Bangor Daily News that "people trusted by the campaign" were among those who received calls asking about Michaud being gay. But the newspaper also reports that it was a secret largely already known by Mainers.
The newspaper points out that Michaud's campaign manager is Matt McTighe, who led the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012. The staff also includes David Farmer, the former communications director for Mainers United for Marriage.
Michaud wrote in his column that "my personal life has never factored into how I do my job" and "that’s certainly not going to change if I’m elected governor." He conceded that despite holding public office, he's reluctant to share personal details. "Growing up in a large Franco-American Catholic family, it’s never been in my nature to talk about myself. I write this now merely to let my opponents and the outside interests who fund them know that I am not ashamed of who I am. And if seeing someone from my background, in my position, openly acknowledge the fact that he’s gay makes it a little bit easier for future generations to live their lives openly and without fear, all the better."
Michaud isn't the only openly gay candidate running for governor in this cycle. But if he succeeds, he could become the first openly gay candidate to win that office anywhere in the United States. New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey resigned when he came out in 2004.