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

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

CHAPTER SEVEN
Conclusion: Out for Good

I represent 125,000 people, except, at some level, I also represent all the gay
people, so it becomes a harder line to balance those different interests, because
those interest groups didn't elect me.

—Openly gay New York assemblyman
Daniel O'Donnell on representation

In the past, I tried to avoid being the message and the messenger. This year I
just felt that in order for it to pass I had to take on both roles. But I'm not
going to lie to you. I've gotten my feelings hurt a couple of times. There were
people who would not sign onto the bill and who would not be up-front with
me or vote for it, and then say they want to be my friend and hug me and love
me. But I know they're not supporting this bill because it has “sexual orienta-
tion” in it. That was not the most pleasant experience.

—Openly lesbian North Carolina state senator Julia Boseman
on her role in passing a pro-LGBT school antibullying bill

AS THE AMERICAN LGBT movement has expanded and matured, its policy successes have grown as well. However, as other political movements and groups have recognized, having friends at the table may not be quite the same thing as having one of your own at the table. But even with this intuitive logic, theorists of democracy have consistently suggested that there are often barriers to electing members of politically marginalized groups, and even if members of the group achieve descriptive representation, it is no guarantee of substantive representation in the policy process.

However, we know very little about potential barriers to the election of LGBT candidates. It is clear that some voters would likely oppose an LGBT candidate because of negative attitudes about homosexuality, but does this translate into enough electoral opposition to prevent LGBT candidates from being elected? Up until this point the evidence has been largely anecdotal and somewhat mixed. At the same time we know that female and minority candidates have faced voter opposition and other hurdles in their attempts to achieve elective office.

-148-

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