Friday, December 18, 2009

Gay officeholders increasing in Dixie

Southern Political Report
December 18, 2009 — The election of lesbian Annise Parker as mayor of Houston last week rightly made headlines. Houston is now the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor. Parker, however, is only part of the story of what has been happening, almost unnoticed, across the South as well as the nation in the past decade or so as hundreds of politically active gay men and lesbians have entered politics and started winning elections in places that weren’t suppose to be hospitable to their candidacies.

In 2001, Southern Political Report produced a report, “Diversity in Dixie,” which looked at the growing influence of minorities in Southern politics. At that time, there were 31 openly gay men and women holding elective office in five Southern states. Today, only eight years later, there are 79 -- about two-and-a-half times as many. And they are present in 12 Southern states, everyone but -- surprise! -- Mississippi.

Openly gay politicians have won seats in the legislatures in Alabama (state Rep. Patricia Todd), Arkansas (state Rep. Kathy Webb), Georgia (state Rep. Karla Drenner), North Carolina (state Sen. Julia Boseman), Oklahoma (state Rep. Al McAffrey), and Virginia (state Rep. Adam Ebbin). Several prominent gay lawmakers have retired from Southern legislatures, including former state Rep. Glen Maxey in Texas, and former state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone in Kentucky. All are Democrats and represent urban areas, where gay voters often make up a significant portion of the electorate.....

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