December 30, 2009

Interesting Trend: Same Sex Marriage No, Gay Politicians Yes

The New York Times (hat-tip to PageOneQ) has a look at an interesting trend in national politics, the success of openly gay & lesbian politicians even while same-sex marriage continues to fail at the polls:

When an openly gay woman won the mayor’s race here this month, it was the latest in a string of victories by gay candidates across the country, a trend that seems to contradict the bans on same-sex marriage that have been passed in most states in recent years. .

Take Texas, by many measures one of the most conservative states in the nation. In 2005, it enacted a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; the voters passed the referendum by a ratio of three to one.

Yet in the last decade, an openly gay woman has twice won election as the sheriff in Dallas County, and another openly gay woman was elected district attorney in Travis County, which includes the city of Austin. Gay candidates have also won city council seats in Austin, Fort Worth and Houston.

Then, this month, Annise Parker, the city controller who is a lesbian, swept to a solid victory in the mayoral race in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city.

There are currently at least 445 openly gay and lesbian people holding elected office in the United States, up from 257 eight years ago, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a political group that supports gay candidates.
Some political scientists say the rise in openly gay candidates’ winning public office is a better barometer of societal attitudes than are the high-profile fights over same-sex marriage.

“Gay marriage ballot measures are not the best measure,” said Patrick J. Egan, a political scientist at New York University who studies issues surrounding gay politicians. “They happen to be about the one issue the public is most uncomfortable with. In a sense, they don’t give us a real good picture of the opinion trend over the last 30 years.”
Click here to read the rest of the story.

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