List of first openly LGBT politicians in the United States

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This is a list of the first openly LGBTQ+ people to have held political office in the United States. No openly LGBTQ+ person has served as president or vice president of the United States or as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. However, all 50 states have elected openly LGBTQ+ people to political office in some capacity, and 48 states have elected openly LGBT people to one or both houses of the state legislature.

Eight states and one territory have elected openly LGBT people to statewide/territory-wide elected offices, all of whom are currently in office: Jared Polis (Governor of Colorado), Kate Brown (Governor of Oregon), Tammy Baldwin (United States Senator from Wisconsin), Kyrsten Sinema (United States Senator from Arizona), Maura Healey (Attorney General of Massachusetts), Dana Nessel (Attorney General of Michigan), Ricardo Lara (Insurance Commissioner of California), Kevin Lembo (Comptroller of Connecticut), Josh Tenorio (Lieutenant Governor of Guam), and Benjamin Cruz (Public Auditor of Guam). Three of the eight most populous cities in the United States have elected openly LGBT people as mayor: Lori Lightfoot (Mayor of Chicago), Todd Gloria (Mayor of San Diego), and Annise Parker (former Mayor of Houston).

Donald Trump was the first President to appoint an open member of the LGBT community to a position in the Presidential Cabinet, by making Richard Grenell the acting director of National Intelligence. Grenell's position was never put forward for Senate confirmation, and he served in that role for only three months.[1] Pete Buttigieg was nominated by Joe Biden for the position of Secretary of Transportation and became the first openly LGBT Senate-confirmed Cabinet member following his confirmation on February 2, 2021.[2][3]

Federal[edit]

Congress[edit]

  • U.S. representative (first out congressperson and Democrat): Gerry Studds[4] (MA-12, MA-10) – served 1973–1997, outed 1983
  • U.S. representative (first to voluntarily come out): Barney Frank[5] (MA-4) – served 1980–2013, came out in 1987
  • U.S. representative (first out Republican): Steve Gunderson (WI-3) – served 1981–1997, outed 1994
  • U.S. representative (first Republican to voluntarily come out): Jim Kolbe (AZ-5) – served 1985–2007, came out 1996
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected, female): Tammy Baldwin (WI-2) – served 1999–2013
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected, male): Jared Polis (CO-2) – served 2009–2019
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected), first openly bisexual member of Congress: Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) – elected 2012[6]
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected), first to succeed another openly gay officeholder in office: Mark Pocan (WI-2) – elected 2012, succeeded Tammy Baldwin
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected), first non-white and first Asian openly gay member of Congress: Mark Takano (CA-41) – elected 2012
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected), first Native American openly gay member of Congress: Sharice Davids (KS-3) – elected 2018
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected), first Black openly gay members of Congress: Mondaire Jones (NY-17) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15) – elected 2020
  • U.S. representative (out when first elected), first Latino openly gay member of Congress: Ritchie Torres (NY-15) – elected 2020
  • U.S. Congressional committee chair: Gerry Studds – chair of House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries 1992–1995
  • U.S. senator (out when first elected, first openly LGBT U.S. senator): Tammy Baldwin – elected 2012, lesbian, representing Wisconsin[7]
  • U.S. senator (out when first elected), first openly bisexual member of the U.S. Senate – Kyrsten Sinema – elected 2018, representing Arizona

By state delegation[edit]

Executive[edit]

State[edit]

Overall firsts[edit]

State officers by state[edit]

Constitutional officers[edit]

Legislative officials[edit]

  • California:
  • Colorado:
  • Hawaii:
    • House majority leader: Rep. Blake Oshiro (D) – elected 2008, came out 2011
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
    • Senate minority leader: Sen. Richard Tisei (R) – elected 2007, came out 2010
    • Senate majority leader: Sen. Stan Rosenberg (D) – elected 2013, came out 2009
  • Minnesota:
  • Missouri:
  • Oregon:
    • Senate minority leader: Sen. Kate Brown (D) (1998)
    • Senate majority leader: Sen. Kate Brown (D) (2003)
    • House speaker: Rep. Tina Kotek (D) – America's first openly lesbian House speaker (elected as Oregon's House speaker in 2012)[27]
  • Rhode Island:
  • Vermont:
  • Washington:
    • Senate majority leader: Sen. Ed Murray (D) (2012)
  • Wyoming:

State legislators[edit]

As of the 2020 elections, the legislatures of 48 states have had at least one openly LGBT member; the first out person to serve in each of those states is listed here. The sole remaining states that have never had an openly LGBT state legislator are Mississippi and Louisiana; Mississippi has, however, had legislators who came out as gay after the end of their term in the legislature, or were outed after their deaths.

Territorial legislators[edit]

Local[edit]

Nationwide firsts[edit]

By state[edit]

Judicial[edit]

The first openly gay judge in the United States was Stephen M. Lachs, appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1979.[121] Before leaving office in 1981, Brown appointed three more gay and lesbian judges to the California courts, including the nation's first openly lesbian judge, Mary Morgan, who served on the San Francisco municipal court.[121]

In 1994, Thomas R. Chiola became the first openly gay judge in Illinois (and the first openly gay elected official in Illinois) when voters elected him to the Circuit Court of Cook County.[122][123]

Deborah Batts was the nation's first openly LGBT federal judge. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote in 1994.[124] (Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California served from 1989 to February 2011 but did not come out until April 2011, after his retirement.)[125]

Batts was the sole openly LGBT judge on the federal bench for seventeen years, until Barack Obama appointed a series of gay and lesbian judges to the district courts: J. Paul Oetken (Southern District of New York, 2011); Alison J. Nathan (Southern District of New York, 2011); Michael W. Fitzgerald (Central District of California, 2012); Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 2013); Pamela K. Chen (Eastern District of New York, 2013); Michael J. McShane (District of Oregon, 2013); Darrin P. Gayles (Southern District of Florida, 2014); Staci Michelle Yandle (Southern District of Illinois, 2014), and Judith Ellen Levy (Eastern District of Michigan, 2014).[125][126]

Obama also appointed the first openly LGBT judge of a federal court of appeals, Todd M. Hughes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.[125][127]

The first openly LGBT justice of a state supreme court was Rives Kistler, appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2003, and retained by voters the following year.[128] The next gay or lesbian state supreme court justices were Virginia Linder (Oregon Supreme Court, 2006); Monica Márquez (Colorado Supreme Court, 2010); Barbara Lenk (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 2011); Sabrina McKenna (Supreme Court of Hawaii, 2011); Beth Robinson (Vermont Supreme Court, 2011).[128] In 2017, Paul Feinman became the first openly gay judge to sit on the New York Court of Appeals.

Benjamin Cruz of Guam was the first openly gay judge of a territorial supreme court; he came out in 1995 and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Guam in 1997.[129] Cruz served as associate justice from 1997 to 1999 and as chief justice from 1999 until his retirement in 2001.[130]

The first openly bisexual judge in the United States is Mike Jacobs, a state court judge in DeKalb County, Georgia, who came out publicly in 2018.[131]

  • State judge of compensation claims: Rand Hoch, Flagler, Seminole and Volusia counties, Florida – appointed 1992[132]
  • Transgender judge: Victoria Kolakowski, Superior Court of Alameda County, California – elected 2010
  • Superior Court judge Victor Carlson, 3rd Judicial District State of Alaska at Anchorage – appointed 1975 served until 1985 when he lost a retention election that was held in the shadow of his coming out.[133]

See also[edit]

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