March 11, 2014 | by guest columnist
Michaud’s disappointing voting record
Mike Michaud, Maine, United States House of Representatives, Democratic Party, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

Mike Michaud’s record on reproductive freedom should be of concern to LGBT voters. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

By JAMES SCHWARTZ

 

As a former D.C. resident now living in Maine, I read The Washington Blade with interest. But I have to say that Chris Johnson’s Feb. 26 piece on the governor’s race here missed the mark. Yes, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) recently came out and is running for governor, but his record of support for LGBT rights is mixed at best.

Serving in the state legislature from 1981 to 1997, he voted 19 times against efforts to prohibit discrimination of LGBT people in Maine. While his record of support in the U.S. Congress has been much stronger, he was conspicuously quiet during the 2009 and 2012 fights for marriage equality. The other U.S. Representative, Chellie Pingree (D), attended public events, spoke up on the House floor, and used her position to underscore support for marriage equality. But not Mike Michaud.

Johnson wrote that Michaud’s independent opponent, Eliot Cutler, was a “perennial candidate.” But Eliot ran only once before — in 2010 — losing to his Republican opponent by fewer than 11,000 votes.

Full disclosure: I back Cutler in this year’s governor’s race. He and his wife, Melanie, were invaluable supporters during the battles for marriage equality. They hosted the state’s largest reception for the campaign at their home in 2012. Cutler has also been a steadfast supporter of LGBT rights beyond marriage, endorsing efforts to ensure safe schools, for culturally competent health care and for inclusive communities.

Significantly, unlike his opponent, Cutler is also a vocal advocate of a woman’s right to choose; Michaud has voted repeatedly against women’s reproductive rights.

One more insight about Cutler’s support for gay people and equality: When my partner and I decided to marry last year, we asked Eliot if he would officiate. He never hesitated, never cited concerns about the campaign or his public image, never asked us to keep the ceremony quiet. He said only two words: “Yes” and “When?” We were married on the front porch of his house in August with his wife and two other friends serving as witnesses.

It’s important and long past due that we have openly gay candidates running for office in Maine and throughout the land. But sexual orientation isn’t reason enough to endorse anyone. Records matter. And Rep. Michaud’s is deeply disappointing.  

James Schwartz is a former D.C. resident now living in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

8 Comments
  • Mr. Schwartz seems to have forgotten to mention that Equality Maine, the 30 year old state-wide GLBT advocacy group that won marriage equality in Maine, has endorsed Mike Michaud. This focus on Michaud's votes when he served in the Maine legislature representing a very conservative mill town in the mountains of western Maine 20 years ago is a desperate tactic the Cutler campaign is flaying away at because they don't have anything more recent to point to. Since that time, and in spite of being in the closet until last year, Michaud has been very supportive of equal rights for GLBT people, gaining a 100% rating from NARAL and a 98% rating from HRC.

    Based on his campaigns petulant response to Michaud's coming out and his endorsement by Equality Maine, one has to wonder if Cutler's past financial support of GLBT issues was intended to provide a return to the donor in the form of endorsements and votes. He's certainly acting like someone who feels like they didn't get what they paid for. As a gay Mainer, I have to say that while I am grateful for Cutler's past donations to Equality Maine, my vote is not for sale.

  • Liking your comment…not the article

  • Going back 20 years in order to discredit Michaud seems more than a bit desperate.

  • Love your comment Scott.

  • Well said, Scott. I voted for Cutler in 2010 but he won't be getting my vote this time, and articles like Jason Schwartz's only increase my support for Michaud. This constant mud-slinging at Michaud by gay Cutler supporters who live in the Portland-area bubble is getting tiresome. While Cutler's support of EQME is appreciated, one hopes that he supported our community because it was the right thing to do and not because he expected us to provide lock-step support for his political ambitions. And what has Cutler done besides write checks? Why hasn't he been out since 2010 building a network of support? I had an open mind about Cutler until his petulant–and Scott is right, it WAS petulant–response to the EQME endorsement of Michaud. And his campaign responded the same way to subsequent endorsements! And let's not forget that when Michaud was casting votes in the legislature 20 years ago Cutler didn't even live in the state. Do people like Jason Schwartz, who moved here only recently, have any idea what Maine, and particularly parts of the 2nd District, were like 20 years ago? Has he even been to the areas that Michaud represented back then? I am not happy myself about Michaud's votes back then, but it was 20 years ago–is this the best argument that the Cutler camp can come up with?

  • Well said Scott, well said Dwight. Spot on….

  • If one thinks about it, Howard, the strategy is really very simple. If you are a guy with no voting record (Cutler) running against a guy with a voting record (Michaud), you (Cutler) go back as far into the past as needed to discredit your opponent. In the case of LePage, one only needs to open the day's paper for evidence, so Cutler has to find ways to erode Michaud's gay/liberal/progressive/southern Maine base.

  • As an outsider looking in, it strikes me as interesting that so many are willing to discount one candidate’s LGBT support as political expedience, when the other candidate had a 16-year track record of throwing everyone under the bus for that very same reason. It’s often hard to know with certainty if candidate stands/votes on his/her own principle versus the prevailing wind. But it sounds like M. showed his hand and his willingness to do what he needed to get elected early on in his career. Not just once or twice, but repeatedly. Voters who dismiss those actions because they took place in the past, do so at their own peril. Statesmen and women do not wait until it’s safe to speak out for what is right. I’m with the writer above. Just because a candidate is out, does not mean they have “the stuff” to make good public servants. And I have little patience with our LGBT brother and sister politicians who have waited until it was safe to the right thing.

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