BY Julie Bolcer
December 02 2009 9:20 AM ET
Georgia voters made history Tuesday night by electing the first openly lesbian African-American state legislator in U.S. history.
Simone Bell, who won a runoff election to represent district 58 in the Atlanta area, will become the second openly LGBT member of the Georgia State Assembly, following Representative Karla Drenner, also from Atlanta.
“The historical aspect of this was never my goal. In fact, someone only brought that to my attention midway through the campaign,” Bell told The Advocate of the milestone. “But it does mean a lot to the communities, and it’s humbling that I stand on the shoulders of greatness.”
Bell’s win in a conservative state that passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2006 has not gone unnoticed by national gay groups. “This is a tremendous victory for LGBT Georgians. Simone is a longtime leader in her community, and she will be a huge asset in the Georgia State House,” said president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supported Bell's campaign.
Despite the state’s conservative leanings, Bells said she saw no organized opposition or smear campaigns on her candidacy centered on her sexual orientation. “Our district is very diverse and progressive in a lot of different ways, so attacking an LGBT candidate in this way wouldn’t have run well in this particular district," she said.
As a state legislator, Bell said she would be focused on fighting further cuts in education and transportation in the state budget. Regarding LGBT issues, “We don’t have a lot of votes in the state legislature to do any progressive work, but in terms of being on the offense, I plan to work with the movable middle to work on making Georgia a better place" she said. "And I will fight hard against any legislation to take rights away from us on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Also, Atlanta voters elected the city’s first gay man, and first Asian American, to the city council on Tuesday. Alex Wan, who was endorsed by the Victory Fund, will represent city council district 6.