Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Millenial Watch: 2 Openly LGBT Elected Officials... under 25

As usual, leave it to the young people to lead the way.

It seems that there's been a lot more news on the LGBT front in recent, months, but maybe that's just me. After Prop 8 there's been a general upswing in activism. We've also seen marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership progress in several states recently (Hawaii, Maine, DC... etc).

But for the second time in a week now I've seen news that, while creating little hubbub, seems to me just as (if not more) important. Twice now I've seen a young, progressive, LGBT leader acknowledge their sexuality and that it has no bearing on their candidacy for public office. By being out and part of the Millenial generation they're overcoming two massive hurdles most candidates don't have to encounter.

Of course it's big news anytime that an openly LGBT person declares their candidacy for, or wins, public office. We're emboldened by such leaders as the Mayor of Portland (sans scandal), Bruce Kraus of the Pittsburgh City Council, Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin in the U.S. House, and more. Each of these people are an inspiration and a unique, trailblazing part of the LGBT-equality movement.

But it's personally even more inspiring for me to witness members of my generation taking the reigns now in leading their communities. For all the talk of many of our leaders, activists, and policy makers, it's still very difficult for young people to get much cred in some circles. It's even harder still for Millenials to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to public office. Organizations like the Young Elected Officials Network and their Front Line Leaders Academy are fueling the movement by training young people with an interest in public service, and helping to remove that age barrier.

First, I saw a news story and several blog posts about Newark, Delaware City Councilman, and friend of the blog, Ezra Temko's announcement last week that he is bisexual. In his short time on Council, Ezra has been at the center of efforts to expand LGBT rights and nondiscrimination in Newark. Discussing his decision to come out and dating his boyfriend Drew:
When we started dating, it struck me how many rights we don’t have. I’ve always been very family oriented, so the limitations on our future made me recognize the level of privilege I had been assuming in my life, which motivated me to step up my advocacy in this area. From that, I began to see what states and municipalities around the country are doing and I asked myself, ‘Why isn’t Newark doing this'?

Nick Schalosky is a college junior in South Carolina who was just elected the first openly gay official in the state! Nick used Facebook to organize a last-minute write in campaign for the Charleston County Constituent School Board. After noticing that no one was running for the position, but too late to register for the ballot, he used online organizing tools to communicate with voters, organize his campaign, and reach out to (new) media.

Schalosky, 21, is also the Secretary of the local Stonewall Democrats Chapter and has written a great article about online organizing, community involvement, and a reflection on his candidacy here.

Congrats to both of you gentlemen! If you hear about any more Millenials or openly gay officials making waves, let us know!!

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