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Winning equality and fairness for LGBT Americans requires, at a minimum, the support of fair-minded politicians. But it also requires out LGBT politicians who can serve as catalysts for pro-equality legislation and personalize the challenges facing the LGBT community.

So how we do help elect more out candidates?

I think of the Victory Fund as the catalyst for the catalysts-they’re the only group working exclusively to elect LGBT Americans to public office at all levels of government. Founded in 1991, that year they endorsed their first two candidates and helped elect Sherry Harris in Seattle, where she became the first openly lesbian African-American elected to a city council anywhere in the country.

Victory’s mission gained steam as supporters realized the power in identifying, cultivating and funding LGBT political candidates who could be champions for LGBT rights across the nation. Over the past two decades, Victory has helped elect hundreds of openly LGBT candidates to local, state and federal offices.

This year Victory has seen tremendous growth and its efforts have proven more fruitful than ever. More than 72 percent of their endorsed candidates won their races in 2011. And the staff at Victory projects another significant jump in 2012 when they expect to endorse more than 200 LGBT candidates.

One of Victory’s most notable 2012 endorsements is Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who is running for the U.S. Senate and would become America’s first openly LGBT senator. Baldwin is the first and only out lesbian ever elected to Congress, and she did that with Victory’s help way back in 1998.

In addition to Baldwin’s endorsement, Victory has already endorsed three openly gay candidates for open seats in the U.S. House, as well as incumbent Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in their re-election bids.

People like Baldwin, Polis and Cicilline put a face to the debates on Capitol Hill; denouncing LGBT bullying, advocating for critical federal hate crime laws, fighting for employment and benefits equality and serving as pivotal voices in the recent repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell."

At the state level, LGBT lawmakers are making progress in persuading their colleagues to support fairness for all Americans. In 2007, Oregon Rep. Tina Kotek helped to pass a statewide domestic partnership bill. That same year, Colorado’s out legislators won their fight to add sexual orientation to the state’s non- discrimination laws. In 2010, LGBT couples began to marry in Washington, D.C., thanks to the leadership of openly gay city council member David Catania.

By giving LGBT leaders the financial and technical assistance they need to win, the Victory Fund is creating a political environment of LGBT inclusion that is shaping a better future for all LGBT Americans.

The strength of our movement has always relied on building our numbers-more of us coming out, more allies, and more of our own stepping up to lead. That’s because there is strength in numbers and groups like the Victory Fund are working to make sure our community is growing stronger and more powerful every year.

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