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social sciences

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Sinema, Kyrsten  (b. 1976)  
page: 1  2  

In 2006 Sinema was a leader of the group Arizona Together, which worked to defeat Proposition 107, a ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution not only to limit the right to marry to heterosexual couples--already the law in Arizona--but also to prevent the state or its municipalities from allowing domestic partnerships, which some cities had instituted.

Instead of focusing only on the deleterious effects that the proposition could have for gay and lesbian couples, opponents pointed out that others who would suffer from its provisions were elderly heterosexual couples in Arizona--a haven for retirees--who stood to lose both Social Security and pension benefits if they remarried. They would also lose important rights regarding decisions about medical care for their domestic partners.

Sponsor Message.

The proposition was defeated. However, the victory was only temporary. A scant two years later, a simplified version of the amendment that targeted only same-sex marriage was easily approved by voters.

After serving three terms in the Arizona House of Representatives, Sinema was elected to the state Senate in 2010. She left her seat in 2012 to run for the United States House of Representatives.

The campaign was hard fought. The National Republican Congressional Committee poured some $900,000 into an attempt to defeat Sinema with various ads, including one in which a satellite--apparently controlled by earthlings, including, presumably, Arizonans--attempted to establish contact with Sinema until a voice lamented "We're losing touch with you, Planet Kyrsten" and concluded "She's far out."

One attack ad dredged up a loopy interview that Sinema gave in 2006 to a now-defunct fashion magazine. In the interview, she seemed to diss stay-at-home mothers, said that she owns more than 100 pairs of shoes, and described herself as "a Prada socialist."

During the campaign, she brushed off those comments as failed attempts at humor and refused to discuss her work as a criminal defense attorney.

In the end Sinema prevailed, although the race was so close and the counting of all ballots so slow that it was over a week after the election before she could claim victory.

In addition to becoming the first openly bisexual member of the United States Congress, Sinema also stands out as one with no declared religious affiliation. (Representative Pete Stark of California was open about his views as a non-believer in religion, but he has since retired.)

When the question of religion came up, Sinema's spokesperson Justin Unga stated to Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times that "Kyrsten believes that the terms 'nontheist,' 'atheist' or 'nonbeliever' are not befitting of her life's work or personal character. . . . Though [she] was raised in a religious household, she draws her policy-making decisions from her experience as a social worker who worked with diverse communities and as a lawmaker who represented hundreds of thousands."

He went on to add that Sinema "is a student of all cultures in her community" and "believes that a secular approach is the best way to achieve . . . good government."

Sinema had earlier taken on the issue of the separation of church and state, and, in the process, demonstrated her mastery of bipartisanship.

In 2005, when a debate over displays of the Ten Commandments on government property was moving through the courts, mainly because of a granite monument that had been installed in Alabama, Sinema hosted a radio show featuring stand-up comedian Chris Bliss, who asked her to sponsor a bill "to put up displays of the Bill of Rights next to [the Ten Commandments] and let people comparison shop."

Recognizing that the support of a Republican legislator would be necessary to pass just about any bill in a red state like Arizona, Sinema called on state Senator Karen S. Johnson--an extremely conservative politician best known for proposing a bill to permit people to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of public colleges and universities--to co-sponsor a bill calling for a monument to the Bill of Rights to be paid for through private donations. In an anomaly for the legislature of Arizona, the bill passed unanimously in both houses.

Although Sinema is open about her identification as a bisexual and her lack of religious belief, she frequently expresses exasperation with the media fixation on those identities. For example, she told Roig-Franzia, that poverty more than religion or sexuality is what drives her. "I don't think religion or my orientation shaped my world view. They're parts of who I am, but they're not the driving force."

Notwithstanding the fact that she eagerly sought and welcomed the endorsement and financial support of gay rights groups, she was surprised and disappointed that following her election news reports around the world distilled her to a single distinguishing characteristic based on her sexual orientation.

Of her identity as a bisexual, Sinema, who is single and does not discuss her private life, has said, "It just doesn't matter if that other person is a man or a woman." She tends not to adhere to common notions about the categories of sexual orienation. Instead she blends them. She told Roig-Franzia, "Bisexuals are gay people--we're all gay," she said, and added, "Some people don't like that."

Sinema comes to Congress with priorities that include glbtq rights, environmental protection, healthcare reform, and fair immigration laws.

Linda Rapp

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Cobb, Kim. "Retirees Help Defeat Gay-Marriage Ban." Houston Chronicle (November 13, 2006): A6.

Coomes, Jessica. "Rep. Sinema Champions Alternative Concepts." Arizona Republic (Phoenix) (February 12, 2007): B1.

Duda, Jeremy. "Ad War Heats up in Arizona CD9." Arizona Capitol Times (Phoenix) (September 24, 2012):

_____. "Arizona's 9th Congressional District Candidate Kyrsten Sinema Evolves from Firebrand to Pragmatist." Arizona Capitol Times (Phoenix) (November 12, 2012):

Oppenheimer, Mark. "Politicians Who Reject Labels Based on Religion." New York Times (November 10, 2012): A3.

Roig-Franzia, Manuel. "Kyrsten Sinema: A Success Story Like Nobody Else's." Washington Post (January 2, 2013):

Santos, Fernanda. "Religious Movement Gets a Sidekick." New York Times (December 12, 2012): A18.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Sinema, Kyrsten   
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2013  
    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 © 2013 glbtq, Inc.  


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