Openly Gay Ryan Fecteau to Become ME's Youngest House Speaker

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 17, 2020

Ryan Fecteau
Ryan Fecteau  (Source:Ryan Fecteau / Facebook)

When Rep. Ryan Fecteau becomes speaker of the Maine House of Representatives next month, he will be the youngest and the first LGBTQ person to do so, The Portland Press Herald reports.

Fecteau, a 28-year-old native of Biddleford and openly gay man, was unanimously nominated last week by the Democratic House majority to be the state's 130th speaker. In an interview on Friday, he said "We have a generation of Americans who are becoming more politically engaged than ever before. There's a lot happening in our country and our world that has commanded the attention of young people to get involved and to have their voices be heard, while I didn't necessarily expect for myself to be this person, in this position, I can say I'm not surprised that now's the time for someone young to serve as a presiding officer in a (legislative) chamber in this country."

With Democrats holding 80 of the House's 151 seats, Fectau's election to the position is inevitable.

A feature in the Herald discusses Fecteau's upbringing in low-income housing by a single mother "who often struggled to make ends meet." Fecteau professes his belief in public schooling because of his own difficulties learning to read as a child, the way teachers helped him learn to read with various strategies. "The public school system did not let me down," he said, and Fecteau would go on to earn a college degree. In addition to the public school system, he also champions pledges to work on behalf of working-class families.

Of his rise to power in the current COVID-19 climate, Fecteau said ""obviously we are living in the midst of a pandemic that is causing tremendous harm to our communities, it has changed all of our lives in many, many ways, and first and foremost I'm concerned about families being able to make a living, put food on the table, to pay their mortgage, their car payments." Also of concern to the legislator is healthcare workers, as well as businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Where LGBTQ issues are concerned, Fecteau has said that despite Maine having come a long way, there's still work to do. A bill he put forward in 2018 to ban conversion therapy in the state was vetoed by then-Republican governor Paul LePage, but then signed into law by LePage's successor a year later, with Democratic governor Janet Mills.

Fecteau has been praised by colleagues, notably by former state Sen. Amy Volk (R), who described him as a "good guy and I don't think he fails to understand where people are coming from," and wishes the soon-to-be Speaker a good working relationship with Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike. Of this particular point, Fecteau says "I hope that all leaders will see this is an opportunity for us to work together to find solutions and not try to undermine and pit each other against one another."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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