Historic LGBT politicians pave way for future ones

Cole Broussard / The Vermilion Politics are hard.

Over the past few months, I’ve been learning more about how politics work, such as the different terminologies and positions.

When I was younger, I had this mindset where if a politician was a woman or LGBT or some other minority, I would vote for them if I were old enough just because the representation was exciting. The idea of being part of the reason we had the first of something felt exciting.

Now, I understand it’s different than that, and there are other things to factor in when making a choice about who to vote for, such as their actual political views.

This article isn’t about politics though. I’ll leave that to our two amazing political columnists, Christian and Brett. Instead, this article is about politicians themselves — specifically the LGBT ones — because it just wouldn’t be the LGBT column otherwise.

In New Orleans, there’s a man named Evan Bergeron. His mission, which he appears to have accepted with much gusto, is to be the first out LGBT legislator for Louisiana. Next week, I’ll be writing about an interview with him about what it’s like to be gay while also involved in politics, but this week is a little different. Bergeron is an LGBT politician of the future; I want to talk about the politicians of the past this week.

And I want that discussion to begin with Kate Brown.

Kate Brown is the first openly bisexual governor in the United States. She’s a Democrat who was first appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives to fill an empty space. She later joined the Oregon Senate, and then became secretary of state. Following that, she became governor due to John Kitzhaber’s resignation during a scandal.

Gerry Studds was the first openly gay member of Congress. He started out in the 12th congressional district seat but moved to the 10th eleven years later. Studds was censured in 1983 by a vote of 420-3 after it was discovered he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. Studds married Dean Hara in 2004 and then died in 2006 due to a pulmonary embolism (the blockage of an artery).

The first openly gay state attorney general in the United States was Maura Healey, who graduated from Harvard in 1992. Healey was the co-captain of the Harvard basketball team and played for a professional basketball team in Austria. She later became a special assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, before taking on a few different legal positions. In 2014, Healey won the election for attorney general.

Also graduating from Harvard, we have Mark Takano, the first openly gay person of Asian descent (in his case, Japanese) in Congress. Takano taught in public schools before joining the political scene. In 1994, during the campaign for the United States House of Representatives, Ray Haynes outed Takano, which may have contributed to his loss of that election. In 2012, Takano won the election for the United States House of Representatives for the California 41st congressional district.

Tammy Baldwin is a woman of many firsts. She became the first openly gay woman and first openly LGBT non-incumbent in 1998 to be elected to the United States Congress. She’s also the first woman to represent Wisconsin in Congress. In 2012, she became the first openly LGBT person to be elected for a second term in the Senate. Unrelated to her political career, but is still a fun fact, is that Andy Samberg is her third cousin.

These people have made history in the United States and LGBT culture. It still feels extremely cool to be living in a time where we can have LGBT people in office, and I’m excited to see what other LGBT firsts we can accomplish. Although I love seeing the gay and lesbian achievements, I’d also like to see some other LGBT firsts — anyone else up for some nonbinary history to be made?