Mike Michaud’s coming out of the closet will come as a surprise to many, but to those operating in political circles and likely some of his fellow members of Congress the public revelation, it’s simple confirmation of a long-held understanding.
Michaud, a Democrat representing Maine’s second congressional district, publicly came out in an-op ed publishing in Maine papers as his bid for governor heat up and opponents had begun polling on how voters would react if they found out he was gay.
“Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: “Yes, I am. But why should it matter?” he wrote.
The real time effect of his announcement will likely be a flood of outside money from liberal and pro-gay groups to support his candidacy, as he has the chance to be the first openly gay person to be elected as governor in the country. His announcement makes him the 7th openly gay member of Congress, all of whom are Democrats.
In D.C., life probably won’t change much.
Lawmakers have become increasingly tolerant of gay rights, recently repealing the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy banning openly gay members of the military, has announced that thanks to a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, gay couples should receive full spousal benefits and the Senate is currently about to vote on a measure that would protect Americans from being fired from their job simply because they are gay.
And while Michaud will become the first openly gay member of Maine’s delegation, his current colleagues are all fairly pro-gay, with Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, having helped lead the charge on repealing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and one of the original sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, are also both pro-gay members, having supported Maine’s same-sex marriage law and numerous other gay-rights causes.
Collins, King and Pingree are all married, Michaud is not.
Michaud himself has an interesting record on gay rights, having stated in 2004 that marriage should be only between one man and one woman, but supporting gay civil unions, but in subsequent years he opposed a series of constitutional amendments that would have banned gay marriage. He also voted against the ENDA act in 2007 because he said it did not go far enough, failing to protect transgender people.
Clearly the Franco-American, Catholic Michaud was reticent to talk about his personal life and only felt compelled to do so because of the political landscape he found himself in. Mainers have shown a willingness to support gay rights initiatives, supporting a 2012 gay marriage initiative after opposing a similar effort in 2009.
Whoever was pushing the issue via polling, may have miscalculated the situation, as it’s much different to campaign against an issue, such as gay marriage, than against a politician simply because they are gay. No one likes to feel like they are acting the bigot.
The danger for Michaud would have been alienating liberals – if he worked to deny the rumors - and with the public generally for any attempt to lie about his lifestyle. But by preempting any involuntary outing and making the announcement in his own terms, Michaud has likely mitigated any negative impact on his candidacy.