Metro Weekly

Progressive Pocan

Mark Pocan hopes to become Madison's second out gay congressperson

”Ultimately,” he says, ”I’d love to see a day when we can get to universal single-payer, whether it be a Medicare-type system or another system, to ensure that health care is a right, and not something just for a few.”

But Pocan also sees his candidacy as a chance to make sure LGBT people are represented on Capitol Hill. He says the Democratic tilt and progressive nature of the 2nd District affords him the opportunity to serve as a spokesman for progressive causes nationally, including LGBT equality.

”I look at Tammy leaving the House to run for the Senate, Barney Frank retiring, we could be down to only two open members of the entire U.S. Congress,” Pocan says. ”I know how important it is to have a seat at the table, because, if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have a domestic partnership law in Wisconsin, and we wouldn’t have extended benefits.”

When it comes to being openly gay, Pocan says he has seen a significant change in attitudes, both in his district and statewide, since he was first elected to the Assembly.

”When Tammy got elected back in 1998 to Congress, we had the first attempt at a constitutional amendment in Wisconsin. There were only 19 Democrats in the Assembly and one Republican who opposed it,” Pocan recalls. ”By 2006, when we had it come up as a constitutional amendment, every single Democrat in the Legislature voted against it. So we’ve seen exponential change in our state, not just within the Democratic Party, but also broad coalitions of labor and faith communities, all working together to stand against discrimination.”

Pocan, who married his husband of five-and-a-half years in Toronto – as Wisconsin does have that constitutional amendment he opposed banning marriage equality – says he would be a strong congressional advocate for gay-friendly policies, everything from recognition of spouses on insurance policies, to adoption, to marriage equality.

”When government allows discrimination, you allow it in a whole lot of other areas,” Pocan says. ”And when government does everything it can to reduce discrimination, you have a better, positive impact on society.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at