Joining eight other members of Congress (seven in the House, and one in the Senate), Maine Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud formally came out of the closet Monday, in an op-ed piece running in three of the state's major news outlets. As he writes in the editorial, the announcement comes in response to an attempted smear campaign against him, which forced him to "save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: ‘Yes I am. But why should it matter?’” Damn right.
A congressman for the state's more conservative 2nd Congressional District, who officially announced his gubernatorial bid in August, Michaud has been careful to never before bring up his sexuality. But on Monday, he penned a powerful editorial simultaneously stating his sexual orientation as a simple fact and sweeping it aside as irrelevant to his campaign.
I knew it was only a matter of time before individuals and organizations ... would start their attacks. Already my opponents have tried to blatantly distort my support for a woman’s right to choose ... So 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. 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?”
Polls have found that most Americans today —54 percent, to be exact — believe in gay marriage, up ten percent from May 2008. And after this summer's DOMA ruling, there has been no better time for that question to be asked.
"That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation mill worker or a lifelong Mainer. One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine ... 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."
If successful in his gubernatorial bid, Michaud would become the first openly gay governor in the country, a title also possible for Democratic Heather Mizur, a married lesbian candidate from Maryland. In 2004, the former New Jersey Governor, James McGreevey, revealed that he was gay, and having an affair with a man — while married to a woman — but the announcement led to a public scandal and his immediate resignation.
Six other House reps identify themselves as LGBT: Reps Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay candidate elected to represent New York; Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, who was the first out gay man to be elected to a first term in 2008; Mark Pocan, who made history on Capitol Hill after he got a congressional ID for his male spouse; Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Takano. Senator Tammy Baldwin is the first and only out LGBT member in the Senate.
[Image: Maine Public Broadcasting via Flickr]