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Michaud’s disappointing voting record

Gay congressman falls short in LGBT support, reproductive freedom

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Mike Michaud, Maine, United States House of Representatives, Democratic Party, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade
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.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Scott Hanson

    March 12, 2014 at 3:16 am

    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.

  2. Josh Decker

    March 12, 2014 at 3:18 am

    Liking your comment…not the article

  3. Steven Mairs

    March 12, 2014 at 5:53 am

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

  4. Roger Mayo

    March 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Love your comment Scott.

  5. Dwight Sholes

    March 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    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?

  6. Howard Solomon

    March 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm

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

  7. Dwight Sholes

    March 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    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.

  8. J. Beckham

    March 17, 2014 at 11:45 am

    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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Commentary

Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages

Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity

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Stephen Sondheim (Screen capture via CBS)

“The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen Sondheim.

The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91.

He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a half-brother.

F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told the New York Times that the cause of death was unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. The day before he passed away, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas told the Times.

“Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A Little Night Music.”

This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans.”

Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim musical hasn’t been in my head.

When I was a child, my parents repeatedly played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks loved the story of the show, which was loosely based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. 

As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having friends but doesn’t want to get married.

Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay.

Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it becomes indelibly etched in your brain.

Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink to that/And one for Mahler!”

In September, I, along with legions of other theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was working with David Ives on a new musical called “Square One.”

In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed the internal depths of his characters and the sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for New York magazine.

Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008.

Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages.

A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, premieres this month.

Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work.

Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Opinions

Publish trans employment stats

Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staff

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On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time finding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. 

Specifically, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. 

On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. 

These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) 

So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. 

“Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals flaunting a rainbow and trans pride flag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. 

Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little effort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. 

If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words.

If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably find out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. 

Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations finally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Opinions

Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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