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Queer Talk: Electing “openly LGBT” candidates

Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.

It isn’t usually something that gets picked up by the media, except on a local level, but over the last decade or so, LGBT candidates for local and state, and occasionally even federal, positions have been making slow but steady gains. Even when not winning, just having “openly” LGBT people in races is a part of the equality and education process. The recent elections show the same pattern. And by the way, that “openly” language has a mixed usage — it isn’t always meant as a compliment.

On to a few specific election results.

By way of Gay Politics:

Gay, lesbian candidates win big across U.S.

Openly gay and lesbian candidates endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund won election to municipal, judicial and state legislative offices from coast to coast Tuesday night. At least 53 of the group’s 75 endorsees were victorious … .

‘The election of gay and lesbian candidates in places where they have never won before is a major step forward, and we could not be happier about these victories,’ said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

‘All of the openly LGBT candidates who stepped up to run for office this year are true leaders who deserve our profound thanks.’

Of the 75 candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund in 2011, 46 were non-incumbents, 22 were women and 15 were people of color.

It’s significant to notice that the wins were across the country. Among those endorsed by the Victory Fund:

Zach Adamson, who becomes the first openly LGBT city councilmember in Indianapolis, Indiana;

Caitlin Copple, an out lesbian who won a seat on the Missoula, Montana City Council;

Adam Ebbin, a Virginia Delegate who becomes the first openly gay State Senator;

Daniel Hernandez, Jr., the intern who helped save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was elected to his local school board in Pima County, Ariz.;

Robin Kniech, an out lesbian who became the first openly LGBT member of the Denver, Colorado City Council;

Mike Laster, who becomes the first openly gay man elected to the Houston, Texas City Council;

LaWana Mayfield, who will be the first openly LGBT city councilmember in Charlotte, North Carolina;

Alex Morse, a 22-year-old gay man who won his race for mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts;

Annise Parker … , who was reelected as mayor of Houston, Texas;

Chris Seelbach, who made history as the first openly LGBT candidate to win a seat on the Cincinnati, Ohio City Council.

LGBT related election news, via Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly:

From New York Times reporter Thomas Kaplan, ‘Rose Belforti, the upstate N.Y. town clerk who won’t sign [marriage] licenses [for same-sex couples], has won re-election.’

The news can’t always be good. And “openly” LGBT candidates, or heterosexual candidates who support LGBT equality, aren’t always welcomed. Sometimes, candidates with “openly” LGBT or supportive opponents just won’t resist “openly” making non-heterosexuality an issue. From Washington Post:

Last-minute campaign mailer calls Forrest ‘openly homosexual’
Days before the election, voters in a Fairfax County (Virginia) Senate district received a campaign mailer that calls Republican candidate Patrick Forrest ‘openly homosexual’ and says he is endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. …

Forrest, who is openly gay, has accused his opponent, longtime Democratic Sen. Janet Howell, of making an issue of his sexual orientation for months. …

The mailers were sent just four days before the crucial legislative elections in which Republicans are trying to take the back the upper house.

The return address of the mailer is Our Heritage USA in Lynchburg, but the organization and street address do not appear to exist.

According to the report, Howell said she didn’t know who sent what she called the “disgusting and despicable” mailers, and indicated she would attempt to find out who did, and was reporting the whole thing to the State Board of Elections. The last I saw, there was no new information about who is behind “Our Heritage USA.”

It’s a bit interesting that the accusations are of a Democratic candidate making the “openly homosexual” charges about a Republican candidate.

This next story is about a school board election in Houston. In many ways, this is a fairly routine kind of happening, similar to the last one. Making allegations about the dangers of “open homosexuals,” especially in relation to children, is a familiar tactic. But of course, that’s also a part of it’s danger. It points to the fact that there are still significant numbers of people who think doing such things is okay. The good news is that many other people don’t think it’s okay, and more and more are speaking out. In this case, be sure and watch for a future “Progressive Notes” post by Art, for his take on this episode, as one of those who stepped in to challenge what the Houston Chronicle called “obvious gay-bashing.”

From the Chronicle, No endorsement of Rodriguez for HISD:

Earlier this campaign season, we endorsed Manuel Rodriguez Jr. for another term on the board of the Houston Independent School District. We now retract that endorsement in the race for HISD Position III trustee.

A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia. The flier urges recipients … to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because he has been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Caucus … . The flier further states that Fonseca has ‘spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights, not kids,’ and winds up with a pair of bullet points noting that he’s 54 years old with no children and has a male partner.

That’s obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground. It has no place on HISD’s board.

According to GLAAD, Rodriguez won by a very narrow margin, and only then, “Apologizes to Those ‘Said They Were Offended’ By Anti-Gay Ads.”

At least he didn’t use the “if anyone was offended” non-apology language. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that, according to the Chronicle, he won by 24 votes. The attention this received, however, is a kind of win in itself.

I realize this last one is looking rather broadly, but from SheWired:

Out lesbian Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Ruth Davidson has just been elected as the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, making her the first gay or lesbian party leader in the United Kingdom. …

Davidson was elected to the parliament earlier this year, and now takes the place of Annabel Goldie to lead the Scottish Conservative party, the third largest in the parliament.

“Out” or “openly,” however you describe it, the “closet” has fewer and fewer occupants, including among those running for and elected to offices, from local to national levels. Of course, there are also good numbers of those who “openly” use “be afraid of the homosexuals” accusations. Even when they win a race, they’re loosing the battle toward equality.

(Annise Parker, via Victory Fund)

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