While gay and lesbian Americans are still in shock at the popular support for anti-gay measures in the 2008 voting season, there is some good news.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, dozens of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates won election to public offices across the US on Tuesday
The group, which endorsed a record-breaking 111 candidates in 2008, said more than 70 percent of its endorsed candidates had won their races by early Wednesday.
“This was a watershed election. Our government became more representative and our democracy became stronger,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.
“As we near the 30th anniversary of the death of Harvey Milk, it’s enormously gratifying to see his dream realised in so many brave men and women heeding the call to run for office, and doing so openly, honestly and unafraid,” he added.
Milk, a San Francisco Supervisor who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., was shot to death in San Francisco City Hall in November 1978.
Among the LGBT election winners in 2008:
- Jared Polis of Colorado became the first openly gay man elected to the U.S. Congress as a non-incumbent. He joins Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, both re-elected on Tuesday night, as the only openly LGBT Members of Congress.
- Kate Brown became the first openly LGBT Secretary of State in the US, and the second-highest ranking elected official in the state of Oregon. Brown is openly bisexual.
- Sam Adams was elected mayor of Portland, Oregon earlier in the year. He will become the first openly gay mayor of one of the 30 largest US cities when he’s sworn in next year.
- Jason Bartlett, who came out as gay in his current term, was re-elected to the Connecticut State House. He is only the second openly gay African-American state legislator in the country.
- Thomas Robichaux and Seth Bloom, both gay men, simultaneously became the first-ever openly LGBT elected officials in the state of Louisiana when they were elected to the Orleans Parish School Board in an October primary.
- John Perez became the first openly gay person of colour elected to the California Assembly.
- Lupe Valdez was re-elected to a second term as sheriff of Dallas County, Texas. First elected in 2004, Valdez was the first woman, the first Latina and the first out lesbian ever to win the post.
- Kevin Beckner won a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission in Florida, unseating an anti-gay incumbent and becoming the first openly gay man elected in the county.
- Rebecca Kaplan will be the first out lesbian to serve on the Oakland, Calif. City Council after winning her race on Tuesday.
In the closing days of the election season, LGBT candidates in Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina and elsewhere were subject to gay-baiting political attacks said the fund, citing two examples:
In Oklahoma, Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth was narrowly defeated in a state-wide race after last-minute attack ads and mailers suggested he would push a “homosexual agenda” in his role as a regulator of the state’s energy industry.
Garnet Lewis, who was seeking a seat in the Michigan State House, was subjected to an onslaught of anti-gay attacks in print and radio media outlets during the final week of her campaign. She lost her race.
“This election was an affirmation of the African-American civil rights movement that is more than a century old. The LGBT movement is much younger, and it’s clear we still have much work to do to win true equality. I am confident that history will give us an opportunity to right those wrongs as we continue the journey toward full equality for all Americans,” Wolfe said.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund works to grow the number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elected officials at all levels of government in the US. At its founding in 1991, just 49 openly LGBT elected officials served in the US. Today, that number has grown to more than 420.