The case of the two Mrs. Maines
Last week, it was more than a giant pair of sequined moose antlers that weighed down beauty queen Debra Pronovost.
When she hit the stage for the “Parade of States,” the woman chosen to represent our state in the nationally televised Mrs. America Pageant was caught in a complicated controversy. The GLBT community considered her “anti-gay,” because the forces pushing to repeal Maine’s anti-discrimination law considered her an “enthusiastic supporter.”
This was hard to comprehend, as anyone who has ever been near the world of beauty contests knows there are more queens backstage and in the audience than in the actual pageants.
The story begins just a few weeks after Pronovost (who’s from Cumberland) won the title.
The Christian Civic League of Maine had posted a photo of “Mrs. Maine” on their Web site, in which she was seen, with sash, signing a petition to repeal the law — a smiling Paul Madore, of the anti-gay Maine Grassroots Coalition, by her side.
The photos and story were widely circulated. Bloggers and cocktailers from all over quickly weighed in.
“Years of gay male support for her, and this is the thanks she gives back? It’s just rude!”
“If that faux-blonde frizz residing on her head is any indication, she certainly does support discriminating against gays in the field of hair care. No homo stylist worth their weight in Aveda would take credit for that.”
“She’ll never get a table at Street and Company…”
Most celebrities subscribe to the adage, “Say whatever you want as long as you spell my name right.” In this case, make sure you get her hair color correct, too.
Because lost among the uproar was the fact that the woman signing the homophobe list was not Pronovost but yet another Mrs. Maine: TraciAnn Moscinski, of New Gloucester. Moscinski is blonde; Pronovost is a brunette.
Moscinski is the state’s representative to the lesser-known Mrs. International Pageant. This contest, developed 19 years ago, “is an organization with high moral values, ethical standards, integrity and Christian values, ” according to the reigning Mrs. International, Virginia Thornton. The pageant features the husbands and children of contestants in prominent roles.
The Mrs. America Pageant’s slogan is “We Are Family.” Mrs. International’s is more like, “No, No — We Are Family!”
There is one thing the two Mrs. Maines seem to have in common: They both say they’ve both been hurt by the implication that they support the repeal effort.
“Debra was very saddened by this story and distressed to think that anyone would think she would sign an anti-gay anything,” said Shamus O’Brien, state director and organizer of Mrs. Maine America. “Our mission has always been one of respect for others.”
O’Brien acknowledges that it is nearly impossible to attain any prominence in any pageant system without the help and guidance of the GLBT community, especially gay men.
For her part, Mrs. Maine International claims to have been hurt by more than just bad publicity – she says she was duped into signing the petition during a festival appearance.
“This group called the Marriage group, walked up to us and said, ‘Oh my Mrs. Maine is here – can we have a photo?’ I said yes, as I had already had many other photos taken by other vendors there.”
As for the petition, Moscinski said she thought she was signing an autograph.
“I am appolled that they would use this to exploite me in any way shape or form,” she wrote in an e-mail to the GLBT site goodasyou.org (the spelling and grammar here are hers). “I did not agree for [Madore and company] posting any kind of note, photo or any other form of information pertaining to me what so ever. I am shocked that they took something so innocent and turned it around that I was on there side for any matter. I want the photo and all the information pertaining to this removed off the site. I would like an appology for this misleading information.”
Madore fired back, accusing goodasyou.org of fabricating Moscinski’s retraction. “What else would you expect from homosexual activist supporters who love to lie?” he began. “I was there when we asked Mrs. Maine to sign our petition to protect marriage in Maine. I led her to the table while explaining to her the nature of the petition. She concurred with me on her position by stating ‘I support what you guys are doing.’ And guess what? Her husband actually signed the petition as well. Any more lies? Was he giving his autograph as well? ”
While I hate to admit it, Madore has a point. It seems Mrs. Maine International did indeed sign the petition. The Coalitionists can be persuasive, especially under the guise of being “pro-marriage,” as opposed to “anti-gay.”
Moscinski demonstrates the intellect of a woman who puts a postage stamp on a fax, but that’s no excuse. Couldn’t she read Madore’s t-shirt, or the banner she was standing under, or hear what he was saying? In her pageant world, isn’t the husband supposed to help?
I guess it is a good thing that she reversed her position, but it poses some important questions: How many of the other 57,000-plus Mainers that signed the “pro-marriage” petition knew they were helping to launch a campaign to strip fellow citizens of housing, jobs, and fundamental human rights?
And another important question: Does anyone know what I can do with all the great blonde-beauty-queen jokes I prepared for this column?
A semi-retired arts promoter, Richard Lawlor is co-founder of GFPM (Gay Fun In Portland Maine) Enterprises. His column, Citizen Dick, will run biweekly beginning Oct. 10.