By David Mixner -
When Elaine Noble (photograph) first ran for the Massachusetts legislature as an open Lesbian in 1974 her car was destroyed, her windows in her home smashed, her campaign workers were threatened and she often had to campaign with two law enforcement officials to protect her. Nevertheless, she continued to campaign and was sworn into office in 1975 becoming the first open LGBT person ever to be elected to state office. When Harvey Milk ran and was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 it literally cost him his life.
How times have changed.
This weekend while attending the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund Conference of International and National Elected and Appointed Officials it was clear how far we have come since those days. You could listen one moment to New York City Council President Christine Quinn (NYC) discuss with San Francisco City Treasurer Jose Cisneros about how to deal with municipal finances in a time of recession or move over next door and hear Idaho State Senator Nicole LeFavour chat about energy policy. The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C was filled with the LGBT community's best and brightest from around the world. You could not help but be moved by Arvind Narrain of India sharing how they decriminalized homosexuality in that massive nation.
You could visit with University of Michigan student body President Chris Armstrong in the hallways of the historic hotel, Down the hall one could visit with the handsome Hillsborough County (Tampa) County Commissioner, Kevin Beckner (photograph) about his successful race for office that made history in Florida. Visiting with newly elected Akron, Ohio City Councilwoman Sandra Kurt also brought the reality of the sacrifice our LGBT citizens make to move us forward. Her spouse Tina Jaroscia spoke powerfully about being the spouse of a history-making elected official and reminded me that there needs to be a workshop for spouses at the next conference. Ran into Arizona State Senator Joe Jackson who is the first open Native American to be elected to a state senate in America. He shared that almost 50% of the Arizona State Senate Democratic caucus is a member of the LGBT community!
Finally the session on Education and Bullying was - not surprisingly - packed. You had to watch in amazement as Kevin Jennings who started has a history teacher, founded GLSTN and is now in the Department of Education shared his experience with the attentive crowd. Current fave City Councilman Joel Burns of Ft.Worth, Texas summed it up best in that session when he said that of all the national organizations you get more bang for your buck by supporting the Victory Fund.
The fact that the hallways were packed with openly LGBT elected and appointed officials proved him right.
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