Meet the lesbian mayors of 2019
With the recent victory of Lori Lightfoot as the mayor of a major city like Chicago, the year 2019 is shaping up to the year of lesbian mayors.
Aside from Lightfoot, Satya Rhodes-Conway also won as mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, the state’s second-biggest city.
Two other lesbian candidates are poised to battle in runoff elections in major cities: Councilwoman Jolie Justus in Kansas City, Missouri and former police chief Jane Castor in Tampa, Florida.
The year of the lesbian mayors
Lightfoot’s victory in Chicago is significant as the first LGBTQ person to be elected as mayor of the third largest city of America, as well as the first black woman.
Former Houston mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city and is now CEO of Victory Fund, a nonpartisan organization supporting LGBTQ candidates, lauded Lightfoot’s victory.
“A Black lesbian taking power in the nation’s third-largest city is a historic moment for so many communities that are too often ignored in American politics,” Parker told NBC News.
Parker added that Lightfoot as Chicago mayor is “now a key leader in the movement to build LGBTQ political power nationwide.”
Furthermore, she said the victories of Lightfoot and Rhodes-Conway “leave us well-positioned to make 2019 the year of the lesbian mayor– potentially tripling the number of lesbians elected major city mayors in just one cycle.”
“Mayors have a profound influence on the daily lives of their constituents, so it is vital that diverse leaders with unique perspectives and solutions are elected to these positions,” Parker said.
Historical precedent of lesbian mayors
With Lightfoot and Rhodes-Conway winning their elections, Castor will be on the Tampa city ballot by April 23 while Justus will facing the electorate by June 25.
Before Lightfoot and Rhodes-Conway, Victory Fund reported that only six openly LGBTQ had served or are serving as mayors of major American cities.
There are 38 openly LGBTQ people serving as mayors in cities both large and small.
Aside from Parker, who served Houston from 2009 to 2012, these include: Sam Adams of Portland, Oregon (2009 – 2012); Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky (2011 – 2019); and Ed Murray of Seattle (2014 – 2017).
There are two openly LGBTQ mayors presently serving: Robert Garcia of Long Beach, California (2014 – present) and Jenny Durkan of Seattle (2017 – present).
If Justus wins, she’ll become the first openly LGBTQ mayor of a major city in the Heartland. Ditto for Castor in the Southeast.
LGBTQ issues and lesbian mayors
The victories of Lightfoot and Rhodes-Conway are indicative of the general progress made by the LGBTQ community in mainstream acceptance.
Andrew Reynolds, a University of North Carolina political scientist who studies LGBT politics, pointed out that: “Sexual orientation is no longer a disqualifier for their success.”
“When marginalized communities break through, they usually do it individually, and then they reach the critical mass,” Reynolds said.
Meanwhile, former mayor Neil Giuliano of Tempe, Arizona, said changing attitudes has been helped by the debate on national issues over LGBTQ equality and rights.
“The very high-profile nature of these issues has raised everyone’s awareness. The culture has clearly shifted in favor of LGBT rights and inclusion,” Guiliano said, who was also a former president of GLAAD.
Women power and lesbian mayors
It also helps that a lot of women are now running for office at all political levels, from city council to the presidency.
“It really does matter when you see other women who are running,” says A’shanti Gholar, political director for Emerge America, which recruits and trains Democratic women candidates.
Gholar added: “It does inspire other LGBTQ women to get out there and do it.”
Reynolds conducted a national survey last year and discovered that cities that pride itself in inclusion help in pushing candidacies of women– especially lesbians
“If you’re a lesbian in a Democratic city, there’s no hindrance to your election. If anything, there’s a slight benefit,” he said.