glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy





social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

Elected Officials  
page: 1  2  

State Officials

A number of glbtq persons have been elected to state legislatures and even executive branch positions. The first openly gay state legislators were Elaine Noble (Massachusetts House) and Allan Spear (Minnesota Senate). Noble came out first in 1974 as an open lesbian after being elected and went on to serve two terms. Spear was first elected to the state senate in 1972 and came out in 1974, continuing to serve until he retired in 2000. The first state legislator in the country was Althea Garrison, elected in 1992, who served one term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

There have been only a few glbtq public officials in executive positions at the state level. Ed Flanagan, Vermont Auditor of Accounts, is still the only openly gay person to be elected to a statewide office by a vote of the people. Flanagan was elected in 1992, but he did not come out as openly gay until 1995. After coming out Flanagan was reelected in 1996 and 1998.

Sponsor Message.


By 2003, there were three openly glbtq serving in Congress, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first open lesbian elected to Congress, and the first non-incumbent openly glbtq person elected to Congress.

The first openly gay member of Congress was Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA). Studds was not openly gay when he was first elected, but he revealed that he was gay in July 1983. After coming out he was reelected every election cycle through 1994 and retired in 1996.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was the second openly gay member of Congress after he came out in May 1987. He continues to win reelection easily.

Following Frank, two incumbent Republican members of Congress came out in the 1990s. Both were in effect outed.

As he faced reelection in 1994, after gay activists threatened to out him for not having been supportive of glbtq issues, Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-WI) revealed his sexual orientation. He thus became the first openly gay Republican member of Congress. He was reelected in 1994, but retired in 1996.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) was confronted with a difficult decision in 1996, either publicly announce that he was gay, or wait and answer questions following the publication in the Advocate of an article outing him. Rep. Kolbe chose to make a public announcement himself and has been reelected ever since.

Significantly, following their outing, both Gunderson and Kolbe became more supportive of the glbtq community than they had been when they were still closeted.

Finally, although no openly glbtq person has yet been elected to the U. S. Senate, the number of openly glbtq candidates for both the House and the Senate has been on the increase since 1996.

There have been a number of closeted members of Congress, some of whom were outed as a result of sexual indiscretions or by activists because they failed to support glbtq issues.

Increasing Numbers

In 1987 the glbtq movement could claim 20 openly glbtq elected officials in the country. In 1991 that number had risen to 52. By April 1998 there were at least 146 openly glbtq elected officials in 27 states and the District of Columbia, and by 2002 that number had risen to 205 and increased to 245 by November 2003.

In 2000, there were a number of notable glbtq candidates, including the first openly glbtq major party nominee for the U.S. Senate (Ed Flanagan, Vermont Democrat), the first transgendered person to be a major party nominee for the U.S. House (Karen Kerin, Vermont Republican), three incumbent members of Congress, and six additional challengers for congressional seats, a third-party presidential nominee (David McReynolds, Socialist Party USA), 32 state legislators seeking re-election, and 31 challengers for state legislative seats.

During the 2001-2002 election cycle, there were at least 135 glbtq candidates on the ballot, and that number increased to more than 160 in the 2003-2004 cycle.

Over 90 percent of these officials and candidates are Democrats, but there are notable glbtq Republicans at every level of government. One figure is Dan Stewart, who was elected mayor of Plattsburgh, New York in 1999, and has gained significant status in the state Republican Party. Likewise, Republican Neil Giuliano, mayor of Tempe, Arizona, received considerable attention after coming out in 1997. He was easily reelected in 1998 and 2000. Giuliano even survived a recall election in September 2001, which he won handily with 68 percent of the vote.

Glbtq candidates have achieved some significant successes at the ballot box, running for and winning local, state, and national elections. These successes are a barometer of the progress of the glbtq movement for equality.

Donald P. Haider-Markel

  <previous page   page: 1  2    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Social Sciences

   Related Entries
social sciences >> Overview:  Gay Rights Movement, U. S.

The U.S. gay rights movement has made significant progress toward achieving equality for glbtq Americans, and in the process has become more inclusive and diverse, but much remains to be done.

social sciences >> Overview:  Outing

First used by homophobes and then by glbtq activists, outing is the public revelation of a person's sexuality without the consent of that person.

social sciences >> Overview:  Political Science

Political scientists have generated insights important to the study of sexuality through research into glbtq participation in formal politics, studies of sexuality as a category of power, and reconceptualizations of the relationship between sexuality and politics.

social sciences >> Overview:  Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is home to a thriving and increasingly visible queer community that has provided leadership for Oregon glbtq activism since the 1960s.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sexual Citizenship

The concept of sexual citizenship draws attention to the political aspects of erotics and the sexual component of politics.

social sciences >> Achtenberg, Roberta

American activist and politician Roberta Achtenberg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed by the United States Senate for a major political post.

social sciences >> Baldwin, Tammy

The first out lesbian elected to the United States Congress, Democratic legislator Tammy Baldwin has been a strong supporter of glbtq rights, but she is far from a one-issue politician.

social sciences >> Beyer, Georgina

As the first open transgender person in New Zealand to be elected to the offices of mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer has evinced courage, humor, and personal honesty.

social sciences >> Buchanan, James

James Buchanan, the only "bachelor president" of the United States, had a long intimate relationship with William R. King, the only unmarried vice-president.

social sciences >> Cashman, Michael

British politician Michael Cashman gained fame as an actor before becoming a Labour Party member of the European Parliament where he worked diligently on behalf of equal rights.

social sciences >> Cicilline, David

U. S. Representative David Cicilline, who made history as the first openly gay mayor of a state capital, has a long record of public service.

social sciences >> Delanoë, Bertrand

Although the homosexuality of French politician and Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë has not been an issue in his campaigns for public service, he was targeted for assassination by a man who hates homosexuals.

social sciences >> Democratic Party (United States)

The American glbtq movement for equality has largely allied itself with the Democratic Party.

social sciences >> Empire State Pride Agenda

The Empire State Pride Agenda, which lobbies New York governments at both state and local levels for equal rights, is recognized as among the strongest statewide glbtq political organizations in the United States.

social sciences >> Frank, Barney

Openly gay U. S. congressman Barney Frank has been a leader not only in the cause of gay and lesbian rights but also on issues including fair housing, consumer rights, banking, and immigration.

social sciences >> Haider, Jörg

Right-wing Austrian politican Jörg Haider reinforced the stereotype of hypocritical politicians who privately enjoy the freedoms won by the glbtq movement while opposing equal rights.

social sciences >> Kuehl, Sheila James

Once best known as a youthful actor, Sheila James Kuehl is now a respected California state legislator and a vigorous advocate for glbtq rights.

social sciences >> Log Cabin Republicans

Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian organization, is dedicated to the principle that equal treatment under the law for gay men and women is consistent with the principles and values of the Republican Party.

social sciences >> Maloney, Sean Patrick

Long a champion of glbtq and progressive causes, Sean Patrick Maloney was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2012 to become the first openly gay U.S. Representative from New York state.

social sciences >> Michaud, Michael H. ("Mike")

Michael H. Michaud, who has served in both houses of the Maine legislature as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives, came out publicly in 2013 during his campaign for the governorship of Maine.

social sciences >> Milk, Harvey

Harvey Milk, among the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall, making him the American gay liberation movement's most visible martyr.

social sciences >> Murray, Edward B. ("Ed") 

After a long career in the legislature of the state of Washington, Ed Murray was elected mayor of Seattle in November of 2013.

social sciences >> Noble, Elaine

A dedicated lesbian activist in the early years of the gay liberation movement, Elaine Noble made history as the first openly gay candidate elected to a state-level office when she won a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1974.

social sciences >> Parker, Annise

In 2009, after a dozen years in elective office in Houston, Texas, Annise Parker won election to the mayoralty of the fourth-largest city in the United States, becoming the first open lesbian to lead a major American city.

social sciences >> Pocan, Mark

A former seven-term member of the Wisconsin Assembly, Mark Pocan easily won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.

social sciences >> Polis, Jared

Businessman and philanthropist Jared Polis became one of only three openly gay members in Congress, and the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a freshman, when he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.

social sciences >> Quinn, Christine

Christine Quinn is the first woman, the first openly gay person, and the first Irish-American to serve as the Speaker of the New York City Council. 

social sciences >> Republican Party (United States)

The Republican Party of the United States has not been supportive of glbtq issues, despite the efforts of the Log Cabin Republicans.

social sciences >> Robinson, Svend

Svend Robinson, the first openly gay Canadian Member of Parliament, has championed human rights throughout his long political career.

social sciences >> Sarria, José

José Sarria, a San Francisco singer, drag performer, and activist, exemplified gay pride before the phrase was invented.

social sciences >> Sinema, Kyrsten 

After serving several terms in the Arizona state legislature, Kyrsten Sinema ran successfully for the United States House of Representatives in 2012, becoming the first openly bisexual person elected to that body.

social sciences >> Studds, Gerry

Representative Gerry Studs, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was the first member of the United States Congress to acknowledge that he was gay.

social sciences >> Takano, Mark

In 2012, Mark Takano, a Japanese American from Riverside, California, became the first openly gay person of color to be elected to the United States House of Representatives.

social sciences >> Waring, Marilyn

Provocative, intellectual, and earthy, New Zealand's Marilyn Waring is both a contented goat farmer and one of the most innovative political and economic thinkers in the world.


Bailey, Robert W. Gay Politics, Urban Politics: Identity and Economics in an Urban Setting. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Bull, Chris, and John Gallagher. Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 1990s. New York: Crown, 1996.

Button, James W., Barbara A. Rienzo, and Kenneth D. Wald. Private Lives, Public Conflicts: Battles Over Gay Rights in American Communities. Washington, D. C.: Q Press, 1997.

Golebiowska, Ewa A. "Group Stereotypes and Political Evaluation." American Politics Research 29.6 (2001): 535-65.

Haider-Markel, Donald P, Mark R. Joslyn, and Chad J. Kniss. "Minority Group Interests and Political Representation: Gay Elected Officials in the Policy Process." The Journal of Politics 62.2 (2000): 568-77.

Rayside, David Morton. On the Fringe: Gays and Lesbians in Politics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Riggle, Ellen D. B., and Barry L. Tadlock, eds. Gays and Lesbians in the Democratic Process. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Rimmerman, Craig A. From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.

_____, Kenneth D. Wald, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. The Politics of Gay Rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Smith, Raymond A., and Donald P. Haider-Markel. Gay and Lesbian Americans and Political Participation. Denver: ABC-CLIO Publishers, 2002.

Vaid, Urvashi. Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.


    Citation Information
    Author: Haider-Markel, Donald P.  
    Entry Title: Elected Officials  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated January 15, 2013  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.