It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey made his “I am a gay American” speech—unless you look at how far he’s (and we’ve) come since his scandal-ridden term as governor. In a new article published this weekend in The Courier-Post, McGreevey and other politicians reflect on how his revelation influenced younger generations of politicians, and shines a spotlight on McGreevey’s unlikely career change.
When McGreevey left office in 2004, only one state in the U.S. allowed gay marriage—Massachusetts. You could count the number of openly LGBT elected officials in the country on one hand. Now, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, there are 500, and, in Maine, out politician Mike Michaud was just selected as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. While it should be stated that McGreevey's coming out didn't necessarily create all this, one U.S. representative admits it did set a precedent about being being open about who you are.
"I think Jim was part of a generation that thought it had to hide who they were in order to be successful in politics. I'm part of a generation that believes I have to be honest in who I am to be successful in politics," said U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from New York who in June married his partner of 22 years. "I think his resignation reinforced for a lot of us the need to be honest about who we are."
As it's documented in the 2013 documentary Fall to Grace, McGreevey now dedicates his time to programs aimed at helping New Jersey prisoners transition back into society. The article touches on what exactly that means, and offers a peek into McGreevey's stance on coming out a decade later:
He is now the executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, overseeing job training and prisoner re-entry programs in the state's second-largest city. His salary, which is paid by the city and reimbursed through his program, is $110,000. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said he sometimes relies on McGreevey for political advice.
And McGreevey, who has two daughters, said his life is now an honest one, though he says he now wants to keep details of his private life and the status of his relationship with partner Mark O'Donnell private.
"I can only wish that I had found this path more directly," he said.
Read the rest of the article here.