Eyes on the Prize

Article excerpt

California's Gerrie Schipske sets her sights on being the second out lesbian elected to Congress

Gerrie Schipske is proud to be running for Congress as ban openly lesbian candidate, but the Long Beach, Calif., nurse-practitioner says she doubts voters care much about her sexual orientation.

"People are so busy and concerned about their own lives," says the 50-year-old Schipske. "They judge you on what you have done in your life, not on what your sexual orientation is."

In Long Beach, Schipske is best known as a dedicated volunteer. She served on the Long Beach Community College board of trustees and started an organization called Long Beach Cares, which raises funds for prenatal and senior health care services. In addition to being a nurse, Schipske is a health care attorney and a mother to three children with her partner, Flo Pickett, a real estate broker. Employed as a health care consultant by the Service Employees International Union, Schipske also teaches health care policy at California State University, Long Beach.

While she has never been a high-profile gay activist, Schipske says, she ran as an openly gay candidate in her successful race for the college board in 1992 and did the same in her unsuccessful bid for the California state assembly in 1996.

Although she wouldn't be the first openly gay person elected to Congress (she would join representatives Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, and Jim Kolbe if they are successful in their own elections), she would be the first to unseat an incumbent--in this case, four-term Republican Steve Horn, a politically moderate former president of Cal State, Long Beach. …