Looking toward the next glass ceiling

Jason Burns

By now I am sure that everyone knows Tammy Baldwin is the first openly LGBT person elected to the U.S. Senate, and that she’s the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin. What’s next for our community politically?

Two weeks ago I attended the LGBT Leaders Conference in Long Beach, Calif. The conference, hosted by the Victory Fund, was a gathering of high-ranking LGBT leaders from around the world, but I want to talk about just one of them – Heather Mizeur. Currently a member of the Maryland General Assembly, Mizeur recently announced her intention to run for governor. If she wins, she would be the first out person elected governor in our nation’s history. She would also be the first woman elected governor of Maryland.

Since returning from California, I have been talking nonstop about Mizeur to everyone willing to listen – about her chances of winning and why it’s not too early for us to start thinking about 2014. I think she can win, and it’s not because of some complex political strategy or a massive war chest. It’s because she listens intently. When you engage her in a conversation, she isn’t looking past you or scanning the room for that big donor she must talk to before the night is over. She’s there, in that moment, with you. 

Mizeur wouldn’t be the first openly gay governor. That distinction is held by Jim McGreevey, the infamous New Jersey chief executive who resigned in 2004 after coming out and admitting to an extramarital affair with a male staff member.

Now, almost nine years later, this country has come full circle. In today’s politics, sexual orientation doesn’t matter, as proven by the 2012 elections. Tommy Thompson never personally spoke about Baldwin’s orientation, but when a senior campaign aide sent an email to donors about it, it hurt his campaign.

In Arizona, my friend Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress. The only time her orientation came up was in her Democratic primary. One of her opponents commented: “Don’t vote for her, she can’t win because she’s bisexual.” 

Sinema not only won the primary, she won the general election.

America is an amazing country. More and more LGBT individuals are being elected at all levels, and not because they are LGBT, but because their constituents believe they are the best person to address our nation’s future. It might be only a month after the elections, but I am already making my first endorsement for 2014: Heather Mizeur for governor of Maryland.