political stripe, the upcoming election is, as ever,
exceedingly important to the LGBT community. Americans will
decide not only a handful of anti-gay marriage
amendments but perhaps the balance of power in many
state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. And in towns,
counties, and states across the country, voters also will
have the opportunity to elect openly LGBT candidates
to public office, some in places where their election
to office will make history.
after the founding of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
we've seen a 500% increase in the number of openly
LGBT elected officials. Our success in recruiting and
helping to elect candidates is real, but context is
necessary to understand the scope of the work ahead.
Of the 511,000 elective offices in the United States, only
350 are filled by openly LGBT officials--just
.068%. Not even James Dobson thinks our numbers are
tempting to take for granted openly LGBT incumbents in
progressive cities and districts. Holding on to those
gains and expanding our voice in those places is
vital. But it's equally important to reach beyond our
comfort zones and work harder to elect courageous candidates
in places where no openly LGBT representation exists.
At a time when fighting for equality can often mean
blunting attacks and preventing backsliding, having
openly LGBT lawmakers at the same table with their straight
colleagues makes a remarkable difference. Real people with
real stories always do.
In places where
we have seen success, the work of changing hearts and
minds is encouraging. In Maryland, a Republican lawmaker
switched her vote on a bill that would secure minimal
rights for same-sex couples, telling a gay colleague
that she'd done so for him and his partner and
their daughter. In Washington State, a long-stalled civil
rights bill is now law because a handful of openly
LGBT lawmakers would not give up. In the Virginia
assembly a bill that would have made it more difficult for
same-sex couples to adopt was defeated by one vote. You
guessed it. There's exactly one openly gay
legislator in that body.
Earlier this year
we helped to elect the first openly LGBT legislator
ever in Arkansas. We also hope to make history in Alabama,
Iowa, and Oklahoma, while keeping hard-won seats in
places like Washington State, Georgia, and California.
A recent Zogby
poll found that 70% of Americans would vote for an openly
gay or lesbian candidate if that person shared their
political views. Our job at the Victory Fund is to
find, recruit, and equip qualified, committed LGBT
candidates who can win. We've endorsed nearly 60
candidates so far, and this could be our biggest year yet.
The temptation in
summer is to recline, sip frosty beverages, and throw
oneself into a delicious novel; a retreat from reality seems
overdue for most of us. For the Victory Fund, summer
is tinged with the notion that November edges ever
closer. Americans head to the polls in less than four
months, and we've got work to do.