Gay US politicians

Fairly simple question, I hope…

Who are (or have been) the most senior openly-gay politicians in America?

We’ve had some openly gay congressmen…Barney Frank, Garry Studds, Steve Gunderson, Jim Kolbe, and Tammy Baldwin. Frank, Kolbe, and Baldwin are still in the house…Studds and Gunderson are not. Those are the highest elected officials, that I can think of.

In terms of appointed officials, Bill Clinton named James Hormel US ambassador to Luxembourg (although he’s no longer the ambassador), and G. W. Bush named Michael Guest ambassador to Romania (also no longer the ambassador).

Best I can do from here is (former?) Senator Barney Frank (D-MA) [is he still in Senate?]

I’m sure an American will come by shortly with a fuller answer - but Senator is pretty senior, IMO.


House of Representatives, not Senate, but Barney Frank is still active, and is the ranking Democrat on a couple of committees. He’s also the most outspoken and renowned gay politician, though some of the others are quite vocal.

Any number of states and municipalities have gay leaders or ex-leaders. The former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts is now head of the Log Cabin Republicans. Numerous cities, including Plattsburgh, NY, and Carrboro, NC, have gay mayors. (The Mayor of Carrboro is dating one of the Town Councilmen in adjacent Chapel Hill, which I find rather cool.) Atlanta has a prominent Lesbian member of the Georgia state legislature representing it.

The gay activists here will have to fill in names and give other examples – those are the ones that come readily to mind.


Federally, Frank is the longest currently-serving openly gay elected official in government. I forget exactly when he came out, but it was after Gerry Studds. Frank has expressed considerable interest, should John Kerry win the presidency, of running for Kerry’s Senate seat. Should Kerry and then Frank win, Frank would be the first openly gay Senator.

I believe there is at least one openly gay federal judge but I can’t recall the name.

On the state level, the highest-ranking openly gay elected official would be New Jersey governor James McGreevey. He has, in the wake of several scandals (including an allegation that he hired a man with whom he was having a relationship to be the state’s homeland security chief despite his not being a citizen) announced that he will resign his office in mid-November.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund is dedicated to electing openly gay people to public office. There is a list of successful sponsored candidates on the site.

Before I moved to my current home I was represented at every level of government, municipal, county, state and federal, by an openly gay person. WHich I found extremely cool.

If all goes well, a very good friend of mine will be the next gay Congressman.


I had to look this up because I didn’t know who you were referring to. Patrick C. Guerriero was never Lieutenant Governor of Mass., only a candidate for Lieutenant Governor:

Oops! Sorry; I thought he was the incumbent! :o

Well, it was a truly bizarre set of circumstances that led up Swift declining to run for the Republican nomination for Governor even though she was the incumbent. I guess she didn’t have anyone serving as her Lieutenant after she became Governor.

Gay or Lesbian Politicians

Just adding a little more information for those unfamiliar with McGreevey, but he spent most of his career closeted, and married. When he announced his resignation, he cited his sexuality (and not any of the sundry scandals associated with his office) as the reason he was stepping down. While he’s technically the first openly gay Governor in American history, that’s a pretty big asterix next to his Hall of Fame entry.

This article, in New York’s “Premier Alternative Newspaper,” claims that the sexual orientation of Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski is an “open secret.” The author relies on evidence that seems rather thin to me, however.

No, he’s still in the House of Representatives. He’s never been in the US Senate. … Yet. But he is considered a likely candidate for the open seat after the current Senator John Kerry moves on to a higher office.

I waded through some of the site, but didn’t really see anything that argued they should be elected. Other than they’re gay or lesbian. Is that a valid reason to elect them or am I missing something in the site?

It was rumored that Janet Reno and Donna Shalala are lesbians. (That’s only rumor, despite Lary Kramer’s attempt to out Shalala – she’s denied it, and there’s been no personal witnesses coming forward.)

This means that at one time in the Clinton administration that the seventh (Attorney General) and twelfth person (Secretary of Health and Human Services) in line for presidential succession were lesbians.


And, of course, while the evidence is fragmentary and not conclusive, and they were both very deeply in their Victorian walk-in closets, we do have the case of the President and Vice-President (in different terms) who likely were life partners: James Buchanan and Rufus King.

There has been much gossip here in Texas that Republican Governor Rick Perry (Bush’s replacement) is a closet homosexual. The whisper campaigns and the tabloids (two very RELIABLE sources… :wink: ) say he is having an affair with the Texas Sec. of State (a Gubenatorial appointed position).

It is also considered an open secret in Washington (again, less than savory sources), that Republican Florida congressman Mark Foley is a homosexual. I believe he was a co-sponsor of DoMA.

Duffer, I could make a list of Episcopalians in elective office. Certainly being an Episcopalian is not justification for voting the guy into office. But it may be useful information for other Episcopalians seeking to promote a particular social agenda – this guy subscribes to the beliefs of our faith, and may be receptive to your petition.

The grounds, in general, on which you should vote for or against a candidate are on your assessment of his/her character and political philosophy, and on his/her stance on issues of importance to you. But the identification of a candidate as an “out” gay or lesbian person may be of interest to others who are gay or lesbian or who support such people in their legitimate political aspirations.

I know that a letter I write critiquing ENDA from a practical standpoint is going to receive a favorable “read” from Barney Frank, and probably not from Bill Frist. How do I know this? Because of their stances on similar issues, to begin with, but also because Barney has something at stake.

'Nuff said?

Not to get too political, and building on Polycarp’s answer, but IMHO diversity of background and experience in political leadership is a good thing. Historically, the LGBT community has been almost completely unrepresented in any level of government. The Victory Fund also believes that government benefits from diversity of viewpoint and that this diversity of viewpoint improves government by giving a historically unrepresented segment of the population an elective voice, by motivating that same segment of the population to participate more fully in the political process and to serve as a resource for non-gay politicians seeking insight into gay issues. And from a purely pragmatic standpoint, not only is an openly gay person more likely to support issues of importance to gay people, in theory it should become harder for non-gay and/or anti-gay politicians to support anti-gay issues in the face of an openly gay colleague.