There’s nothing easy about telling the world you’re gay. Even now, with 50 percent of people nationwide saying they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry. Even after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine. Discrimination, even hate, still exists.
So U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s announcement Monday that he is gay is brave. It takes courage to share something so personal.
At the same time, Michaud, who is running for governor, was correct to ask in an OpEd published Monday by the Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald and The Associated Press, “Why should it matter?” For him, he wrote, “It’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation millworker or a lifelong Mainer.”
We urge people to welcome this truth and move on.
Michaud’s announcement should not — and likely won’t — change anything about how the six-term congressman, former state Senate president and 11-term former state lawmaker makes his case to voters about why he should be Maine’s next governor. And it shouldn’t change anything about the case his opponents make about why they should occupy the Blaine House for the next four years.
While the announcement should not change what the candidates talk about and how they appeal to voters, it will inevitably change how outsiders perceive Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
The race was already one with a high national profile. Now, it will be even more prominent as the political world weighs the prospect of a state electing an openly gay governor for the first time.
Michaud already had access to large amounts of money from groups intent on helping a viable candidate defeat Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Now Michaud will have access to even more money as national groups intent on breaking down another barrier set their sights on electing a governor who is gay.
While Maine voters will feel the effects of even more money flowing into their gubernatorial contest, this announcement will likely change little about their decision.
Michaud is making the announcement about a year before the 2014 gubernatorial election. He’s making the announcement on his own terms. And by the time Maine residents cast their ballots, other, more important matters will be on their minds.
For us, we appreciate Michaud’s decision to be honest with Maine residents about who he is. We appreciate how difficult it was to decide to announce it, to make the announcement and to brace for the reaction. We also recognize today’s political reality that appears to have forced Michaud to have made something intensely personal just as intensely public.
In his OpEd, Michaud pledges to “run a positive campaign that focuses on finding real solutions to the challenges we face, not empty platitudes and old ideas repackaged in new rhetoric.”
It’s our hope that by announcing his sexual orientation to the world, it increases the likelihood Michaud will be able to do just that.