Two openly gay candidates have their
sights set on joining Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank and
Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin in Congress this November 4th.
Colorado businessman Jared Polis won
Colorado's 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary
race in August. Because his district is a Democratic stronghold,
Polis will make history as the first openly gay man elected to the
House (Frank confirmed he's gay while serving his second term).
“The chances of a Republican winning
in this district are zero,” Bob Loevy, a professor of political
science at Colorado College, told Time.
Polis, who has served for six years on
the Colorado State Board of Education, is no stranger to politics,
but he's better known for his philanthropic giving. He founded
schools both for the homeless and for immigrants with the millions he
accumulated from Internet companies ProFlowers.com and
Polis, 33, has vowed to be a vocal
champion of gay & lesbian issues. On his website
(polisforcongress.com) he addresses America's most pressing gay and
lesbian inequalities, such as workplace discrimination, marriage
rights, and the military's ban on gay and lesbians serving openly.
“To strengthen our national defense,
we must cease the removal of capable and courageous members of our
military based exclusively on their openness about their sexual
orientation,” Polis said.
If a gay Congressman from Colorado
strikes you as odd, it should. It certainly would have been
unimaginable 15 years ago when voters in the state passed a
constitutional amendment prohibiting laws to protect gays and
lesbians from discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court found the law
unconstitutional in 1997.
While Polis appears to be home free,
another openly gay candidate for Congress remains viable.
Democrat Linda Ketner is running for
the House of Representatives in South Carolina's 1st
Congressional District, which includes Charleston.
Ketner's freshman run at the office
against incumbent Republican Henry Brown is no forgone conclusion.
Brown, who came to Congress in 2000 after serving as a Piggly Wiggly
vice president and is a staunch conservative, remains determined to
become a South Carolina perennial politician. But in an election
year where Republican incumbents are on the run, Ketner's prospects
of victory remain high.
As a longtime businesseswoman, whose
father founded the Food Lion supermarkets, community activist, who
financially supported and organized a failed attempt to defeat a 2006
gay marriage ban, and philanthropist, Ketner brings a wealth of
experience and hope to Washington.
Ketner, 58, a Victory Fund endorsed
candidate, rarely discusses being gay, and her challenger has yet to
address the issue during the campaign.
“She happens to be gay – she's not
a gay candidate,” Tony Snell of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian
Pride Movement told The Associated Press. “Throughout the
South, there's softening on the gay issue. It's becoming more of a
non-issue as we look at the economy, we look at the war. ... People
are going to go beyond their old biases.”
While Polis faced a tough three-way
primary race against challengers Joan Fitz-Gerald and Will Shafroth,
neither raised the issue of Polis' sexual orientation during the
“Sexual orientation shouldn't be a
barrier to participate in the public sphere,” Polis told Time.
“It's a difficult issue for my opponents to try to use against me
overtly without a backlash, but there have been some jabs,
insinuations and whisper campaigns.”
That did not keep Polis from
campaigning at Gay Pride festivals or including his longtime partner,
writer Marlon Reis, in his campaign.
On the Net: Ketner for Congress