The Governor of Maine goes Tony Soprano

This week, the governor of Maine redefined “petty” as he sought revenge against the teachers who braved his wrath to announce their support for marriage equality. The petulant snit of Governor Paul LePage, is On Our Radar.

“Sometimes when people know they’re losing, they get more virulent. That can be a dangerous time.”

Congressman Barney Frank made that observation in conversation about the four-year-old “choirboy” in the news this week. An Indiana congregation rewarded the tot with raucous cheers as he serenaded them with that perennial crowd pleaser, “Ain’t no homo goin’ to heaven”. Rep. Frank has always had a way of cutting to the quick, and his observation is just as true for the big picture as it is for the little hymnist. The gay agenda is succeeding and the tantrums are everywhere.

Maine’s Governor Paul LePage had a beaut of a tantrum this week when he vetoed a bill that would have provided funding for teachers to seek a special national certification. It was quite an unexpected veto, since the governor regularly harangues the Maine Education Association (MEA) for not concentrating on “teacher development”. The teacher’s union had even agreed to pick up part of the tab. You would think the governor would be taking a victory lap.

Why the veto? Punishment. The MEA announced its support for the marriage equality referendum on the Maine ballot in November. The governor wants to let the teachers know they shouldn’t be sticking their noses into matters that are not education-related as he sees them. Although the MEA did not specifically mention their support for marriage equality in their press release, preferring to focus on the fact the governor chose to block the very kind of program he regularly complains should be the primary business of the MEA, Governor LePage himself was not so diplomatic. He went on the record with his reason for the veto, saying of the MEA’s decision to come out for marriage equality: “This announcement is an example of what the union is choosing to focus on rather than expanding and enhancing opportunities for teacher development.”

Paul Le Page seems to thrive on being disagreeable. He campaigned by assuring his audience that when he was governor they could expect to see headlines reading: “LePage tells Obama to go to hell.” He then insulted the NAACP by refusing their invitation to meet with them. LePage reacted memorably to their complaints of insult with a heartfelt “Kiss my butt”.

One of LePage’s first acts as governor was designed to annoy unions. He ordered removed from the lobby of the Department of Labor a mural depicting Maine’s labor history. The AFL-CIO called the order “mean, spiteful”, and “political payback.” From there LePage moved on to alienating environmentalists by repealing Maine’s recycling laws. Without missing a beat, he proceeded to offend women when he announced he wanted to end a ban on the chemical “Bispenol A” in baby bottles and sippy cups. Speaking to the concerns of the state’s mothers, LePage set off a firestorm of protest when he said “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So worst case women may have little beards”.

Now it’s the LGBT community’s turn to dodge Governor LePage’s slings and arrows.

In 2009, before LePage became governor, Maine voters repealed a law passed by the legislature allowing same-sex marriages. Marriage equality advocates have managed to collect enough signatures to put the issue back on November’s ballot and LePage is worried it will pass. Times have changed since 2009. Poll numbers in favor of marriage equality continue to rise nationally, 51% in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll. President Obama’s recent announcement that he now favors same-sex marriage has put a new updraft under the wings of Maine’s marriage equality forces. The endorsement by the MEA was another straw on the back of an already staggering homophobic camel, and if the old boy is going to face plant in Maine, LePage is going to make sure he spits in the eye of anyone who helped take him down.

The bill the governor vetoed had nothing at all to do with anything LGBT. It would have covered the cost of any teacher seeking certification by the prestigious National Board for Professional Teaching Standards – the “teacher development” LePage is always clamoring for. This was a warning. This was a threat. The veto of the teacher certification bill was Governor LePage’s version of a Corleone horse head in the bed. He likes things done his way, and he does not want marriage equality passed in Maine.

Paul LePage is a man who has continually shown he will use the power of his office to make sure the “will of the people” is whatever he says it is. But in their press release regarding his veto, the MEA stood tall, writing: “The governor demands agreement and obedience and he is not getting it from the MEA. The bottom line is that this is a campaign designed to weaken and discredit the Association or bully us into submission.”

“Sometimes when people know they’re losing, they get more virulent.” Congressman Frank observed. “That can be a dangerous time”. Barney Frank is a wise man. We shall heed his advice and hope the teachers of Maine do too.

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