He followed motorcyclists wearing rainbow wigs and feather boas and the parade’s two other grand marshals — the coordinator at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity and a transgender student who won a discrimination lawsuit after her school refused to let her use the girls’ bathroom.
Aside from fundraising, observers say Michaud’s sexual orientation will likely have other political importance in one of the first states to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box in 2012.
It could turn away some deeply conservative and religious voters, but they likely wouldn’t have supported the Democrat anyway, said Michael Cuzzi, a former Democratic campaign strategist.
Michaud has come under fire from his political foes for voting against anti-discrimination laws for gays and other pro-equality measures while in the state Legislature. His campaign said his position on the issues has evolved over the years and he’s now strongly pro-equality.
That turnaround and his decision to come out could attract progressives who were not fans of his in earlier elections, said Sandy Maisel, political science professor at Colby College.
Michaud is headlining a group of several openly gay candidates around the country this year, including Heather Mizeur, who’s seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland.
If elected, Michaud wouldn’t be the first gay governor. New Jersey’s Jim McGreevey had already been voted into office when he announced in 2004 that he was gay and admitted to an extramarital affair with a male staffer. He subsequently resigned.
Twenty-nine year-old Amber Hodgkins, who was watching the parade with her dog, said a victory for Michaud could improve Maine’s image nationally as an inclusive community and provide a powerful example to young gay people across the country.
“You don’t have to choose to be out or have a career,” she said. “You can have it all.”
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