11 Queer Politicians Harvey Milk Paved the Way For
11 Queer Politicians Harvey Milk Paved the Way For
"It's not my victory, it's yours and yours and yours," Harvey Milk famously said after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. "If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We've given them hope."
Just one year after being the first openly gay man elected in California, Milk was assassinated at City Hall on November 27, 1978.
Four decades following Milk's assassination, at this year's midterm elections, we saw a record breaking number of LGBTQ candidates voted into office - over 100! Today, exactly forty years following Milk's death, we honor the activist's legacy by taking a look at 11 queer politicians who would not be where they are today without the pioneer's bravery and leadership.
This past midterm election, Jared Polis made history by becoming the first openly gay governor elected in U.S. history. Polis spoke freely and frequently with voters about his partner and children on his Colorado campaign trail.
"Generations of LGBTQ advocates have dreamed of the moment when voters would overcome tired stereotypes and elect an openly gay man who stands proudly with his partner and family - and this is that moment," Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement the night of Polis' historic win.
2. Andrea Jenkins
In November of 2017, Andrea Jenkins was elected to Minneapolis City Council, making her the first transgender person elected to a major city's governing body and the first transgender person of color elected to any office in the U.S.
"Transgender people have been here forever, and black transgender people have been here forever," Jenkins told The Washington Post following her election night win. "I'm really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society."
3. Danica Roem
During the same 2017 midterm cycle as Jenkins, Democrat Danica Roem, a former journalist, became the first openly transgender person elected in a state legislature in the U.S. Roem unseated Republican Bob Marshall, one of Virginia's longest-serving and most socially conservative lawmakers. The irony of her win doesn't escape us; Roem defeated an incumbent Virginia lawmaker who sponsored a bill that attempted to restrict which bathrooms she could use.
4. Kate Brown
Kate Brown has become an icon to bisexual folks in her home state of Oregon and across the nation. She is the first openly LGBTQ governor ever elected into office. She became governor in February 2015 following the resignation of John Kitzhaber. She then won the special election the following year, and was re-elected as governor earlier this month.
5. Tammy Baldwin
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin was the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the U.S. Senate back in 2012. Wisconsin voters re-elected Baldwin earlier this month in a race that was heavily watched by both political parties.
"The re-election of Senator Baldwin was among the LGBTQ political community's highest priorities this election cycle, so to see this champion of equality handily defeat her anti-LGBTQ opponent is phenomenal," said Mayor Annise Parker in a statement. "Six years ago, Senator Baldwin became a historic first and redefined what is possible for an LGBTQ candidate seeking a career in public service, and tonight's victory provides a different but equally important political lesson. It proves that an out LGBTQ candidate who unapologetically uses their political power to fight for equality can be re-elected statewide in the era of Trump, even in a state that Trump won."
6. Kyrsten Sinema
In a heated election that was too close to call for days, Kyrsten Sinema was able to pull through, clinching victory in Arizona's U.S. Senate race. Flipping the seat to Democrats, Sinema is the first out bisexual person in the chamber.
7. Malcolm Kenyatta
In the November general election last month, Malcolm Kenyatta won in a landslide victory against his Republican opponent, Milton Street, winning with over 95% of the vote. The long-time community activist is now the first openly gay person of color (and one of the youngest, at 28-years-old) ever elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
8. Cynthia Nixon
Named OUT 100's Hero of the Year, Cynthia Nixon may have lost the race for New York's governor, but her political journey is far from over. A fierce advocate for marginalized groups, prison reform, and affordable healthcare for all, Nixon has been one of the most visibly queer politicians of all time.
9. Sharice Davids
Along with Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Davids, who's openly gay, was elected in Kansas and is an attorney by training as well as a former mixed martial arts fighter.
Following her big win, Davids said in a newsletter, "You told me you needed someone who lives your struggles. You told me you needed someone who listens when you speak. You told me you needed someone who knows your experience." She continued, "You told me to run. You told me to win. And, together, we made history last night."
10. Teri Johnston
Teri Johnston is the first gay woman to ever be elected mayor in a Florida city and is the second female mayor of Key West. Prior to running for election, Johnston served as the city commissioner of Key West for eight years.
11. Brian Sims
Elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2018, Brian Sims is a Democratic member of the House of Representatives and a fierce lawyer and LGBTQ activist. As the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania history, he has been working tirelessly to ban conversion therapy statewide and has no problem speaking his mind to our notoriously homophobic Vice President, Mike Pence.