Congressman Mike Michaud, who will be the Democratic candidate for governor of Maine next year, announced yesterday that he is gay. His announcement has received a tremendous amount of publicity online and in newspapers, at least partly because, if elected, Michaud would be the nation’s first openly gay governor. The big buzz has been lauding Michaud’s courage in announcing that he is gay? But is this really courage?
In 2013, homosexuality is widely accepted, so it it does not take any extraordinary courage to tell the world you are gay. I am sure it is not easy for a man in his fifties to announce that he is gay after a lifetime of hiding his sexual orientation. Today’s youth grows up accepting homosexuality as common, unlike when Michaud was growing up. Gay friends in their early fifties have told me that coming out was the most difficult thing they ever did. Nonetheless, this is 2013, and gay people and same-sex marriage are at least accepted, and often embraced or even celebrated, by most people. Maine is the only state in which same-sex marriage became law by popular vote, as opposed to an act of the legislature, and most Mainers are live-and-let-live people. So for Michaud to come out did not require the amount of courage for which he is being praised.
The fact that Michaud is gay has been an open secret in Maine. It does not take any special courage to confirm what most people already know or at least strongly suspect. Many of Michaud’s constituents in Maine’s Second District knew he was gay, and most do not care. In addition, Michaud openly associated with gay people in Ogunquit, in southern Maine, which is the state’s gay hotspot.
If Michaud really had been courageous about his sexual orientation, he would have announced it five, ten, twenty or more years ago. He would have been courageous to announce it a couple decades ago, when people were not nearly as accepting of homosexuality as they are now. It is not incredibly courageous to come out now, when most people do not care.
If Michaud was not being all that courageous, what was he being? Perhaps it seems cynical, but it can easily be argued that he is being opportunistic. Michaud is in a three-person race for governor that everyone expects to be very close, as was Maine’s last gubernatorial election. (This race features two of the three candidates from 2010, including the incumbent.) Michaud never announced his homosexuality during his eleven terms in the state legislature or in his six terms as a congressman. He never announced his homosexuality during any of the three campaigns in Maine to legalize same-sex marriage. Making his announcement during any of those times might have involved a degree of courage. But now, in 2013, Michaud needs votes in liberal southern Maine if he is to win election as governor. So why not announce he is gay? The liberals in southern Maine will love it and the out-of-state gay groups will shovel money into his campaign. Just as good, now anyone who opposes Michaud can, in today’s politically correct atmosphere, be labeled homophobic.
By announcing he is gay when he has nothing to lose (and in fact he might win the governorship in part by his coming out) and when the vast majority of people could care less, Mike Michaud did not show any great courage.
By James Bumbalo