While political parity remains an elusive goal for the gay community, the number of openly gay elected officials has surged over the past decade.

In the United States, many of the country's most successful out politicians received help from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a group dedicated to supporting openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender candidates.

Later this month, the group returns to Fort Lauderdale to put on its 17th annual Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute (GLLI) Candidate & Campaign Training, where attendees learn how to press the flesh from proven campaign professionals.

Steve Kornell, who fought off anti-gay attacks to win a seat on the St. Petersburg, Florida City Council last November, is expected to address attendees.

While there are no official statistics, the number of openly gay candidates has steadily increased. For instance, last week's Democratic primary in Illinois included 14 such candidates running for various offices (attorney Jacob Meister, who was running for the Senate seat once occupied by President Obama, dropped out three days before the primary, leaving 13 official candidates on the ballot).

New York City Council doubled its GLBT caucus to four members in 2009 after eight openly gay candidates ran for seats.

But the largest prize to be had last year occurred in the red meat state of Texas.

Despite an avalanche of anti-gay rhetoric from social conservatives, Annise Parker, an openly lesbian politician, was installed as mayor of Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation, on January 2, 2010, with her partner by her side.

“The GLLI has trained hundreds of openly LGBT candidates and campaign workers on how to build winning campaigns,” event coordinator Martin Garcia told On Top Magazine in a recent interview.

Garcia then ticked off a who's who of gay politicians, including Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh.

Attendees, Garcia said, “learn about skills and strategy by engaging in tough, realistic campaign situations.”

The trend is not confined to the United States. Openly gay elected officials throughout Europe have achieved new heights of political power. Last year, voters in Iceland elected an openly gay prime minister. Germany's foreign minister is gay. And both Berlin and Paris have openly gay politicians at the city helm.

The Victory Fund's four-day workshop for openly gay candidates begins on February 25 in Fort Lauderdale. Trainings will also take place in Minneapolis in June and the District of Columbia in December.