I was pleasantly surprised when researching the topic of LGBT* politicians. I was not aware that all 50 states have been served by an out LGBT* member in some capacity, and 41 states have elected openly LGBT* politicians to one or both houses of their state legislature. REPRESENTATION!
But… on a Gubernatorial and Federal level…
Only one governor has come out, and no openly LGBT* has been elected as governor or president. And there are only 8 out LGBT* members in Congress (Representatives Jared Polis, David Cicilline, Sean Patrick Maloney, Kyrsten Sinema, Mark Pocan, and Mark Takano ; Senator Tammy Baldwin). This is a record high; I’m glad that the number has increased, but with the United States having 100 Senators and 435 Representatives in the House, the LGBT* community is grossly underrepresented.
I think there are many obvious reasons for this (mainly homophobia and discrimination), but I want to talk about liability. There are many in the Democratic party who view backing an LGBT candidate as too risky, especially in swing states or in districts that lean Republican. Obviously in any election these places are risky. My guess, if someone isn’t going to vote for an openly gay candidate, they probably wouldn’t vote for a Democratic candidate anyway… especially one with “San Francisco Views“.
This past Wednesday, Clay Aiken announced his candidacy for Representative of the 2nd District of North Carolina. Regardless of how you feel about Aiken, if he wins the primary, it should lead to an interesting battle with Tea Party member Renee Ellmers. When in comes down to it, and openly gay man is running for Congress in North Carolina. That alone should help put future LGBT* politicians into the national spotlight.
Obviously the LGBT* community needs more than a white skinny guy from American Idol for representation in Congress, but he is certainly far from being the worst candidate that could be elected. (And he actually has a decent platform – mostly liberal with a touch of North Carolina politics).
As I have said many times in the past – visibility is the key to the LGBT* movement; true and diverse representation on the national and global stage is crucial.
SO LGBT* community – run for office! Be politically active! Be socially conscious!
We are NOT a liability. We should not be considered a political risk.
And shit… if Clay Aiken can run for Congress, maybe someday I can too.