Openly gay candidates are blazing the trail for LGBT involvement in politics.
Last year, a record 8 LGBT candidates ran for the US House and Senate, 7 of which were elected into office, and many others established historic “firsts.”
Mark Takano became the first openly LGBT person of color in Congress. Kyrsten Sinema became the first out bisexual elected to congress. Tim Brown became the only openly LGBT Republican state lawmaker in the US. The list also includes candidates who vied for high-ranking positions in office such as Kate Brown, who identifies as bisexual, who became Secretary of State in Oregon, the second highest-ranking elected official in the state.
The visibility of openly gay politicians has increased dramatically over the past two decades.
“When we first started there were less than 50 LGBT elected officials, but now we are just shy of 600,” Vice-President of Communications at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect LGBT candidates to office, Denis Dison, told 429Magazine.
This year will also see a fair amount of LGBT leadership. Christine Quinn, who has been called “one of the most high-profile and outspoken LGBT leaders,” is running for Mayor of New York City in the primary election this September.
As reported by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Rep. Carl Sciortino of Massachusetts is likely to become the 8th openly LGBT member of the 213th Congress, setting the record for the most out members to serve on Capitol Hill at one time.
Gary Schiff, who currently serves as the Ward 9 Councilman on the Minneapolis City Council, is a prominent candidate for Mayor Minneapolis Minnesota.
Dison acknowledged that although sexual orientation has become less of a controversial issue for candidates, there is still an immense need for LGBT representation in politics.
“We are still not well represented,” he said. “The goal of getting people elected at the local, state, and federal level is to speed up progress, especially in places where equality is coming slower. LA and San Francisco have more equality, but this is not true for all areas of the country.”
Dison added that having LGBT officials in government is important to maintain a representative democracy because their voices speak to marriage equality, family, discrimination and other issues that affect the overall community.
“We will not benefit from representation that does not understand the realities of our lives,” he said. “When an LGBT person is at the table talking about the issues, these issues are no longer abstract, they’re real.”