Having read Al Diamon’s expression of preference for Paul LePage’s policies — although not his temperament — I was not surprised to see his criticism of Mike Michaud (see “Where Were You When I Needed You?,” November 15). But I was disappointed by its tone.
First, his rejection of Ian Grady’s point that “Michaud can serve as a role model for gay youth” is simply wrong. Regardless of the path that he took to get there, Mike’s affirmation that he is gay will encourage younger gay and lesbian people who think about political careers but fear that their sexual orientation will make that impossible.
I say that from experience. I was 47 when I decided to be honest in public about who I was, and I heard from many people — including, but not limited to, the young — who were very grateful I had done it. They told me that it had been helpful to them, and no one said that because I had waited until I had been in office for fifteen years, there was no benefit to them.
Second, Diamon is also wrong when he says that Mike’s endorsement of same-sex marriage came after “all the heavy lifting had been done.” I am particularly troubled by this, because I was actively engaged in the referendum campaigns that were going on last year, and any suggestion that the result in Maine was foreordained at the time that Mike endorsed it is wholly inaccurate. It is relevant to note that Mike took that position knowing that the vote was likely to be against same-sex marriage in the district he represented. The number of times elected officials consciously decide to take a public, controversial position which they know is a minority view in their own districts is very small. The fact that Mike’s statement contrasts with the silence of both Maine Senators underlines that this was hardly an easy or irrelevant decision.
Next, Diamon’s suggestion that Michaud’s important public announcement — having the first openly gay governor in American history will be an enormous boost to our fight against prejudice — should be discounted because of his prior record is a fundamental political mistake. I have myself been critical of those closeted gay men or woman who were leaders in anti-gay efforts — like Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee Chairman who played a significant part in George Bush’s effort to pass an anti-same sex Constitutional amendment, but Mike has no such blot on his record.
He did vote against gay rights issues twenty years ago when he represented a socially conservative district and was closeted, but he never took any active part in pushing them, and his change of position on the issues long predates his announcement of last month. As a Member of the House, I can tell you that Mike was a consistent ally in the legislative efforts that I undertook to advance LGBT equality. He voted against the Bush anti-same sex marriage constitutional amendment in 2005 and 2006, and he was an unhesitating supporter of our successful to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when we voted on it several times in 2010, and he voted with us on the key procedural vote on ENDA, voting no on passage only because of our inability to include the transgender category.