Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation

By Donald P. Haider-Markel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
In the Legislature: Case Studies on
Political Representation and LGBT
State Legislators

It is impossible to not relate to hate crimes issues, GLBT issues. It's impossible
to not relate to it from sexual orientation. While it's legislation that somebody
out there needs, it's also legislation that I need, that I want. In the same way
that a small business person will stand up and say this is how it affects small
business, I'm going to be able to stand up and say this is how it's going to affect
me and my life and my sister and friends. So I will speak up to that which
affects me.

—Openly lesbian Arizona state senator Paula Aboud (D)
on her role as an LGBT legislator

I think being there and being a gay legislator made a lot of people think about
things that they have never had to think about in the past…. There were some
people who came up and told me they were glad they met my partner and
how nice she was. I think something like that helps people overcome, maybe a
preconceived notion that they had. I hope (the session) did raise some aware-
ness among legislators who maybe hadn't had the opportunity to work with
somebody who was an openly gay person and see that I wasn't, you know, some
horrible person.

—Arkansas freshman state representative Kathy Webb

AS THE QUOTATIONS ABOVE make clear, LGBT legislators believe that increased descriptive representation has a real and enduring impact on the policy process in the policymaking process. And at least some LGBT legislators believe that they play a special role in advocating for the interests of the LGBT community—that their constituents include more than simply the residents of their district. In this chapter we begin to examine LGBT substantive representation in the state policy process through the political context of several states in which LGBT legislators have been elected. The states examined in a mini-case-study format are

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