Pie-in-the-Sky Presidency?

The prospect of the nation’s first black president sparks the hope that a gay president is drawing nearer.

BY Julie Bolcer

August 13 2008 12:00 AM ET

Presidential Seal smaller (Getty) | Advocate.com

“For good
or for ill, I think the Ellen phenomenon has made the
domesticated lesbian more palatable,” says Lisa
Moore, an associate professor of English and
women’s and gender studies at the University of
Texas at Austin. “I think it would be a partnered
lesbian, probably someone with children.”

In fact, most of
those asked predicted that the likeliest candidate would
be a woman. “I think that women have more
successfully bridged the ‘yuck gap’ with
the public than men,” says Bob Witeck, CEO and
cofounder of the Washington, D.C.–based
marketing and PR firm Witeck-Combs Communications.

Still, there are
some who discount the likelihood of a lesbian,
particularly in the wake of sexism they say was on display
in the recent primary season. “A lesbian
candidate would have a double whammy,” says
Holly Hughes, associate professor of art and theater at the
University of Michigan. She envisions the ideal
candidate as a man who benefited from the gay rights
struggle but did not forge his identity in it, in the
manner that Obama, born in 1961, connects with the civil
rights movement: “It would have to be someone
who, in that particular elocution,
‘happened’ to be gay.”

Obama’s
success suggests that the optimal scenario for a gay
candidate might ultimately require a convergence of
factors that the candidate has no control over. For
instance, would Obama’s image of change be so
appealing on the tail end of eight years of national
prosperity and peace? “I’m not sure if
[Obama] shows us a new way of becoming president so
much as he is an exceptional personality, with an
exceptional biography, in an exceptional time,”
says Jonathan Rauch, a guest scholar at the Brookings
Institution. In other words, the perfect candidate with
the perfect biography might be out there already --
it’s just a matter of finding the perfect time.
“By the time we’re ready to consider a gay
president,” Rauch explains, “gay rights will
have to have almost ceased being controversial in
America.”

Come to think of
it, that does sound like the perfect time.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF Who needs primaries? We conducted an informal
poll of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education
Network, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and
political insiders to bring you this list of likely, and
surprising, LGBT contenders for the White House -- for
the next 24 years.

The Most Likely

2016David Cicilline, 47, mayor of Providence, R.I.,
and president of the National Conference of Democratic
Mayors

Barney Frank, 68, U.S. representative from
Massachusetts

Anthony D. Romero, 43, executive director of
the American Civil Liberties Union

Elizabeth Birch, 52, consultant; former Human
Rights Campaign executive director

2024Tammy Baldwin, 46, U.S. representative from
Wisconsin

Hilary Rosen, 49, political director of The
Huffington Post

Kate Brown, 48, Oregon state senator

Matt McCoy, 42, Iowa state senator

Christine Quinn, 42, speaker of the New York
City Council

2032Guy Padgett, 31, former mayor of Casper, Wyo.,
and current city council member

Rachel
Maddow
, 35, MSNBC political analyst and Air
America Radio host

Jamie Pedersen, 39, Washington State
representative

Jason Rae, 21, DNC superdelegate from Wisconsin

Elizabeth Duthinh, 17, freshman at Brown
University; helped lobby to pass Maryland’s
safe-schools law

Michael Tuso, 19, University of North Carolina
at Greensboro freshman; first openly gay student body
president in the UNC system

The surprising

2016David Geffen, 65, media mogul

David C. Bohnett, 52, technology entrepreneur

Tim Gill, 54, software entrepreneur and gay
rights activist

Suze Orman, 57, financial adviser

2024Greg Louganis, 48, Olympic gold medal diver and
motivational speaker

Michael Stipe, 48, lead vocalist of R.E.M. and
activist

2032Patrick Guerriero, 40, executive director of
Gill Action Fund; former head of Log Cabin Republicans

Dan Savage, 43, syndicated sex columnist

Tags: Politics

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