By JANE CLAYTON
Earlier this year, when EqualityMaine chose to enthusiastically back Mike Michaud for governor, Michaud talked about serving in the legislature with Dale McCormick, Maine’s first openly LGBT legislator, and the times he’d fallen short of 100 percent support for our community many years ago.
He wrote in a letter to the EqualityMaine board: “I know that there were some votes I took in the earlier part of my career in the state Legislature that hurt people like Dale and my fellow LGBT Mainers. It’s one of the reasons I’ve fought so hard for equality throughout my time in Congress and why I will continue to do so as governor.”
And that’s exactly what Michaud has done. For more than 15 years, he has stood with our community, voted with our community and been there to ask others to do the same.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has been a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act since he entered Congress in 2002. Unfortunately, in 2007, Congress removed protections for transgender people. Because of this, EqualityMaine joined with more than 300 LGBT and civil rights groups to oppose that non-inclusive version of ENDA.
Michaud stood with EqualityMaine and with all of Maine’s LGBT community despite pressure to advance this incomplete bill.
Michaud’s stand in 2007 was by no means his first, nor would it be his last, on behalf of the LGBT community. He not only opposed federal marriage amendments in 2004 and 2006, he actively worked to persuade his colleagues to do the same. He’s been an influential voice in efforts to end discrimination in our armed forces and repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. And his public support for marriage equality in 2012 was critical to Maine being the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage at the ballot box.
Of course, as with most leaders with such a significant record of public service – like Presidents Clinton and Obama – there were times years ago when Michaud wasn’t always with us. Thankfully, those leaders weren’t alone in their evolution. Across the country, attitudes about LGBT Americans are changing every day, leading to tremendous gains at the ballot box, in the courts and in legislatures from coast to coast.
But long before he came out, and certainly long before he decided to run for governor, Mike Michaud had already evolved into one of the strongest advocates Maine’s LGBT community has fighting for us. And his election this November will underscore, yet again, how far we’ve come as a state and as a country when Maine elects the first openly gay governor in history.
We couldn’t be prouder to support him and to have his support, and we know he’ll make a great governor.
Jane Clayton is president of the board of directors at EqualityMaine, Maine’s leading LGBT advocacy and community organization and an attorney in Bangor.