While gay rights activists are still reeling from Tuesday’s marriage defeat in Maine, Detroit's LGBT residents are celebrating in force, with the groundbreaking victory of Charles Pugh, the embattled city’s first openly gay and black city council president.

“I feel amazingly encouraged that Detroiters have said they want new leadership,” Pugh tells The Advocate. “I think my being elected proves that the city is willing to accept people as they are. It really gives me hope as a sign that our community has been embraced.”

Pugh, 38, was a popular former Fox 2 News anchor and radio personality on FM 98 WJLB in Detroit. He left his two jobs in April and began his bid for city council.

“It was time for new leadership,” Pugh says. “As a native Detroiter, I was embarrassed every time our city was in the national spotlight for the absurd antics the previous council administration was casting on Detroit. Instead of sitting by watching our city be destroyed, I chose to take action.”

Pugh is referring to the numerous scandals that have plagued Detroit in recent memory -- namely the 2008 resignation of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was caught up in a text message scandal and extramarital affair with his chief of staff and pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, for which he served 99 days in jail. Detroit also faced national public embarrassment as city council members’ brawls, arguments, and over-the-top antics were captured and televised nationwide.

Pugh made a strong showing in the city council primary earlier this year, despite being openly gay in a city not necessarily known for its embrace of LGBT people. Pugh was endorsed by the AME Ministerial Alliance, the Council of Baptist Pastors, and several individual pastors. “They called and said they were with me,” Pugh says. “They told me that I was what was needed to move this city forward.”

Pugh even sat down with Pastor Marvin L. Winans, an influential local religious figure who has publicly spoken out against homosexuality. “Pastor Winans is a known agitator when it comes to LGBT issues,” Pugh says. “I was expecting him to be combative on that issue. Ironically, he was combative on the celebrity issue. He thought the only reason people were voting for me was because I am a ‘so-called’ celebrity. The gay issue did not come up.”

Tags: Election