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

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

CHAPTER ONE
Political Representation and a
Brief History of the American
LGBT Movement

Anything that we can do, me as an individual, or us as a state, to be leaders on
this issue and be role models is excellent. The message really is: everyone
deserves a stake in Washington, and everyone has a stake in Washington's
future.

—Washington representative Marko Liias
on his role as an LGBT legislator

What works in New York or San Francisco doesn't work in Birmingham or
other southern states.

—Lesbian representative Patricia Todd on her role in a “stealth campaign” to pass bills
on hate crimes and reducing the bullying of LGBT students in Alabama

ATTEMPTS BY LESBIAN, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to gain political representation have evolved out of the LGBT movement's goal of achieving equality in American society and politics. This evolution is similar to that followed by other historically marginalized groups in American politics, such as women, African Americans, and Latinos. In part these developments are based on assumptions that hurdles to being elected can be overcome, and, once elected, that officials representing the group can shape policy. To gain a deeper understanding of this pattern, this chapter explores what we know about the political representation of women and minority groups in American politics. I examine what the literature has to say about attempts by marginalized groups to obtain elective office and whether these efforts translate into policy changes. In addition, I provide a brief history of the development of the LGBT movement in the United States. I explain the growing development of LGBT attempts to achieve representation in the policy process through the election of LGBT officials and how these efforts compare with the efforts of women, and of ethnic and racial minorities.

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