The next Speaker of the House in Maine will be a 28-year-old gay man — marking the first time in the state an openly LGBT person will serve in the position.
Ryan Fecteau, a Democrat who represents a small city just south of Portland, was nominated Nov. 12, according to the Maine House Democrats website. He will be formally elected Dec. 2 by his colleagues in the House.
Fecteau is accustomed to making history. At the age of 21 he was elected as the nation’s youngest openly LGBT state legislator in 2014, according to the Advocate.
Fecteau is soon to be a fourth-term member of the House and is the current Assistant Majority Leader. He will serve in the 130th session.
“Ryan is a leader who can help Maine through the immense challenges we are facing as a result of the pandemic, and who can address the needs of the State and all who call it home,” Majority Leader Rep. Matt Moonen said in a statement.
The position Fecteau is set to fill is significant, as the speaker of the house has influence over floor movement, the House agenda, bill selection, negotiating budgets with the office of the governor, appointing committee members and recruiting candidates, according to the Portland Press Herald. The position is also third in the line of succession for the Governor’s office.
Fecteau has worked to remedy the harmful effects of conversion therapy, and spoken out against its use in front of the Maine State Legislature in 2018.
In the speech, Fecteau spoke about his personal experiences as a member of the LGBT community.
“I know there are young people who are far more vulnerable than I was back then,” Fecteau said. “I want to protect them from the harm that can come from a trusted professional telling them one way or another that they are broken, that the core truth of who they are is wrong and even disgusting.”
“An Act To Prohibit the Provision of Conversion Therapy to Minors by Certain Licensed Professionals,” a bill sponsored by Fecteau, was passed and signed into law in 2019, according to the State of Maine Legislature website.
Other legislation sponsored by Fecteau includes “An Act Regarding the Drug Crisis and Ensuring Access to HIV Testing” in 2017, and “An Act To Address the Unmet Workforce Needs of Employers and To Improve the Economic Future of Workers” in 2019, according to the State of Maine Legislature website.
Fecteau also supports affordable housing, advancing career and technical education and improving the tax code for working families and small businesses, according to Fecteau's website.
Fecteau studied political science and theology and religious studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., according to the Maine House Democrats website.
He also served as the leader of the LGBTQ Student Organization and president of the student body, according to the speech.
“I am humbled to receive the House Democratic nomination to serve as Speaker of the House,” Fecteau said in a Twitter post on Nov. 12.