The fight for equality by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Americans has been bolstered by astonishing victories in America’s 2012 elections. “This wasn’t incremental progress. This was a breathtaking leap forward,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the nation’s largest LGBT political action committee.
These victories, the work of many volunteers, excellent candidates and smart campaigns, were sparked, in part, by President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden. This fearless duo capped their first four years in office with the endorsement of same-sex marriage, rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
And, there was a trickle-down effect! Their actions and endorsements propelled the voters of Maine, Maryland and Washington State to support same-sex marriage while the voters of Minnesota rejected a same-sex marriage ban. Further, according to the Victory Fund, 118 out of the 180 candidates they endorsed won.
In the new 113th United States Congress, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), will be the first elected openly gay senator in U.S. history. In the House of Representatives, Mark Pocan (D-WI), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA) and Kyrsten Sinema, (D-AZ) will become the newest LGBT Americans in Congress. They will join Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Cicilline (D-RI), both of whom were re-elected.
In addition, across the country, the LGBT fight for equality racked up additional victories as there are now only 10 states that do not have an out LGBT elected representative. Before the last election, there were 17 such states.
At the State level in 2012, North Dakota’s Josh Boschee, West Virginia’s Stephen Skinner, New Mexico’s Jacob Candelaria, Pennsylvania’s Brian Sims and Florida’s David Richardson were all elected as their State’s first openly gay state legislator. Maine’s 21-year-old Justin Chenette became the youngest state legislator in the nation. Mary Gonzalez became the first state representative (D-El Paso, TX) to come out as pansexual. New Hampshire’s Stacie Laughton became the first out trans person ever elected to a seat in a state legislature. Rep. Mike Fleck, the only Republican in the LGBT group, came out of the closet. In addition, Colorado Democrats elected Mark Ferrandino as the first openly gay House speaker in state history and, in Oregon, Tina Kotek became speaker of the House, the first lesbian speaker in American history.
Closer to home, eight openly LGBT people, all Democrats, will be serving in the California State Legislature. They are: Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez (Los Angeles), Mark Leno (San Francisco), Cathleen Galgiani (Livingston), Tom Ammiano (San Francisco), Toni Atkins (San Diego), Rich Gordon (Menlo Park), Ricardo Lara (Bell Gardens) and Susan Eggman (Stockton).
LGBT candidates are gearing up across the nation for the 2013 elections. In Los Angeles, the primary election is on March 5. There are three openly gay candidates running for City office. They are:
Kevin James, Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate. Kevin is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for Southern California and entertainment lawyer which led to his becoming a radio host and political commentator. From 1998 to 2000 James also was the co-chairman of AIDS Project Los Angeles. Currently he serves on the AIDS Project Los
Angeles Ambassador’s Council. Though the Mayor is a non-partisan office, Kevin has announced that he is the only Republican in the race and has been up front about being gay. Kevin has served as a regular panelist for Court TV’s “Catherine Crier Live” and appeared on cable news networks as a commentator and legal analyst.
Mike Bonin, Candidate for Los Angeles City Council, District 11. Mike is a community leader and grassroots activist in L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods for nearly two decades. Mike has worked since 2005 as chief deputy to Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, the present openly-gay incumbent. Rosendahl, who decided not to seek reelection in order to focus on his fight with cancer, is a popular councilmember and has endorsed his deputy. Bonin served in senior posts with U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, and Councilmember Ruth Galanter. Bonin is a champion of mass transit and an advocate for reducing traffic congestion, currently serving as alternate member of the Board of Directors of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority. He is also co-founder of Camp Courage, an acclaimed training program for community organizers seeking the freedom to marry for the LGBT community.
Mitch O’Farrell, Candidate for Los Angeles City Council, District 13. Over the last ten years, Mitch has worked as a Field Deputy, District Director and, finally, as a Senior Advisor to current District 13 Councilmember Eric Garcetti. (Garcetti is seeking election as Los Angeles Mayor.) Mitch writes about what he learned during this time “…in a time of perpetual city budget shortfalls – has taught me what it means to be a public servant, what it takes to transform neighborhoods, and how to leverage resources to make good things happen.” He is a community activist having been President of the Glassell Park Improvement Association and President of the Northeast Democratic Club. Mitch co-founded the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council.
Across America, other qualified candidates for 2013, who also happen to be gay and lesbian, include: Kansas’ Scott Criqui, Lawrence City Commissioner; Missouri’s Shane Cohn, St. Louis Alderman, 25th Ward; Pennsylvania’s Dan Miller, City of Harrisburg Mayor; Tennessee’s Chris Anderson, Chattanooga City Council, District 7 and Washington’s Ed Murray, Seattle Mayor are all candidates who have been vetted and are now supported by the Victory Fund. (www.victoryfund.org)
The LGBT community has learned that a shared sexual orientation does not guarantee that a candidate has political acumen, intelligence, honesty or perseverance. It is becoming clear, however, that Americans, in general, are learning to look beyond race, religion and sexual orientation as an automatic deterrent to vote for a candidate. All of us are hopeful that our politicians – straight or LGBT – will not just be “the best money can buy.”