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.