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An interview with
US Representative
Mike Michaud (D ME)
Out and Proud

by Denny Meyer

A friend of Mike Michaud recently told him that, when he came out to his mother "-at least it wasn't national news."  For Maine Congressman Michaud, it was.  He came out at the beginning of November in an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News, which quickly went viral.  He's not the first openly gay out member of Congress, so why should it matter?  That question, in fact, was the point and subtitle of his coming-out op-ed.  The fact is, he's running for Governor of Maine.

It was not that long ago that James McGreevy, then Governor of New Jersey, came out publicly, and in the same speech, he resigned.  At the time that I interviewed him, back in 2006, he said, "...once you live or show your truth there are negative consequences. We value appearances over the truth; we value form over substance; we value societal norms over integrity."

A lot has changed in the few short years since then.  James McGreevy was outed by scandal mongers scenting the blood of bigotry.  Now, in 2013, political opponents of Mike Michaud have, apparently, attempted the same thing by spreading rumors in an effort to derail his campaign for the Governorship of Maine.   But times have rapidly changed.  Right Wing conservative's bigotry has taken a beating.  Since then, America has twice elected its first Black President, Don't Ask Don't Tell has been repealed along with the Defense of Marriage Act, Gay and Lesbian patriots now serve openly and proudly in our armed forces, and same sex marriage is legal in sixteen states and the Capitol.  Mike Michaud, a candidate for Governor in Maine, has come out before the election, and its likely to be to his advantage because a majority of Americans are now disgusted with hate mongering.  As a poll cited on his website notes, a vast majority of Mainers think that his being gay has no relevance at all.

Gay Military Signal is interested in Congressman Michaud not simply because he's gay, but because he's the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.  Sixteen percent of the population of Maine, he noted, are veterans.  They let him know that vets are not being taken care of, contrary to the prevailing belief.  When it comes to Congressional consideration of the cost of our care, he's had to speak out and point out that for those who have stepped forward to put their lives on the line, "we have to be there for them; we must take care of our vets regardless of the cost; if we send men and women to fight and die for us, we must take care of them when they come back; that is the cost of war."  Among other coverage issues, he successfully fought for the VA to care for those affected by Agent Orange.  Among the initiatives he's involved in is the Advance Appropriations Bill to provide the VA with funding a year in advance, which would avoid a negative effect on veterans benefits in the event of another government shutdown, alleviate the need for the VA to move from crisis to crisis, and most importantly would help end the backlog in processing veterans claims which currently requires constant Congressional funding continuation.

Of vital importance to gay veterans, he is a cosponsor of the Restore Honor Act, introduced by Reps Rangel (D NY) and Pocan (D WI), which would streamline and automate discharge upgrades for those given Less Than Honorable discharges due to homosexuality.

As a representative of LGBT veterans groups, I suggested that he also give consideration to advocating LGBT veterans as a designated minority which would provide for VA facility LGBT Coordinators assuring that all rights and benefits are provided; as well as issues affecting transgender veterans such as VA provision of sexual reassignment surgery.

He noted that, as Governor of Maine, he will continue to work on behalf of veterans both in Maine and with other governors dealing with the shift in the cost of caring for veterans from the federal government to the states.

When I asked him what he has to say to gay American Veterans, he first of all insisted on thanking us for our service.  In light of the support he got for coming out this month, he encourages 'coming out' particularly for veterans whom he regards as role models who, having worn the uniform, have the respect of all Americans.   As such, he noted, we can set an example for all Americans of all ages to be proud of who they are.

Rep. Michaud himself has set an example of courage for all to see.  In his coming-out op-ed, he said, "Yes, I'm gay, but why should it matter?"  To the voters of Maine, it shouldn't matter at all.  To all Americans it should matter that he has the courage to run for Governor proud of who he is, without shame or apology.  He has heard from Mainers of all ages and all walks of life, from service members and veterans, unionists, teachers and students, that he has given them the courage to be proud of who they are.

2013 GayMilitarySignal