Months before the general election,
voters endorsed two openly gay candidates to elected office.
In Portland, Oregon, the mayoral
election was decided in May, when openly gay Sam Adams won a
mail-only primary over several opponents. There will be no general
election for Adams because he secured the majority vote (59%).
Adams will become Portland's first
openly gay mayor on January 1st, and the first to run one of the 30
largest cities in the United States.
A first-term city commissioner, Adams
was endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a group committed
to increasing the number of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender elected officials at all levels of government.
In his victory speech, Adams said he
was shocked by the results.
But the Democrat is no novice to
politics; he served eleven years as Chief of Staff to former mayor
“In Oregon, fairness has won the
day,” said Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck
Wolfe. “[The election of Sam Adams as mayor] means that people who
are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can also be seen as
capable, committed leaders whose sexual orientation or gender
identity is less important than what they plan to do for their
communities. That's a step towards equality we want to replicate
In Portland, being gay appeared to be a
non-issue in local media coverage of the mayoral race. The same was
true for Jared Polis, who appears likely to become the first openly
gay representative elected to Congress.
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. (Massachusetts Representative Barney 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 faced a tough three-way
primary race against challengers Joan Fitz-Gerald and Will Shafroth,
neither raised the issue of Polis being gay during the campaign.
“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.
Voters may have settled on Polis and
Adams to make history, but another 100 Victory Fund endorsed, openly
gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender candidates for elected office
will be anxiously waiting their fate next week as voters head to the
polls. Learn more about each at www.victoryfund.org.