Election Day ushered in what many leaders are describing as a new era for the LGBT-rights movement, with historic victories that nearly doubled the number of out legislators on Capitol Hill and legalized same-sex marriage in three new states.
According to Denis Dison, vice president of communications for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which seeks to increase LGBT representation on both sides of the aisle, the number of state legislatures with no out LGBT members went from 17 to 10, with states like West Virginia electing Stephen Skinner as their first out state lawmaker ever.
Democrat Stacie Laughton beat two Republican challengers on Tuesday to become New Hampshire’s first out transgender legislator. Her win in New Hampshire not only made history in the state, but for the broader trans movement as Laughton became the first out trans person ever elected to a seat in a state legislature.
“We are people, too, who still have talents and ideas,” Laughton told the Nashau Telegraph. “And I hope that people won’t be afraid to get into politics, or any other position, for that matter. I want the community to feel inspired.”
Laughton wasn’t the only one to make history this week.
In Colorado, Mark Ferrandino brought LGBT leadership to new levels in the state. Although Ferrandino has served in the Colorado House of Representatives since 2007, his fellow Democrats nominated him for speaker of the House on Thursday, marking the first time an out gay person has presided over the chamber.
Ferrandino will not officially assume the position until an official vote in early January, but his election is all but assured by the Democratic majority. When he does become speaker, Colorado will join California and Rhode Island as the three states to have an out speaker.
Adding to the excitement in Colorado, which banned same-sex marriage in 2006, out state Sen. Pat Steadman is expected to run for President of the Colorado Senate. If Steadman is successful, as many suspect he will be, it would mark the first time both chambers of a state legislature have gay leaders.
In Oregon, control of the House of Representatives flipped from Republican to Democrat. Democratic Leader Tina Kotek is expected to become speaker of the House, and with it the first lesbian speaker in American history.
Ohio Republican Tim Brown also won election on Tuesday to the state House of Representatives, becoming the only out Republican state legislator in the nation.
A younger generation of LGBT leaders also won their races on Tuesday, including Craig Cassey, who won election to D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC). At 20-years-old, Cassey is the youngest out gay person ever elected to office, according to Dison.
In Maine, 21-year-old Justin Chenette was also elected to Maine’s House of Representatives, becoming the youngest state legislator in the nation.
[Photo: Screenshot from Stacie Laughton campaign video (Courtesy of Stacie Laughton for State Rep 2012).]