Chuck Wolfe

Imagine a gay president

Filed By Chuck Wolfe | February 01, 2008 9:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: civil rights, election 2008, LGBT community, marriage, New Jersey, President

My job is to help more LGBT Americans get elected to public office, so I’m thankful that I rarely have to convince talented, ambitious and passionate people to step up and run for office. We’re doing that in a lot of places now, but we should aim higher.

Like most people, I have to meet certain benchmarks set by my bosses on our Board of Directors. Together we survey the political landscape and determine what’s possible and what we should be aiming to accomplish. We talk about places where we think we can elect an openly gay city councilmember, a lesbian mayor, a transgender state senator. But we’ve never talked about electing an openly LGBT president, and in a season when we’ve grown comfortable with the notion that our next president could be a woman or an African-American, I wonder why we haven’t.

How crazy is this? Perhaps not as much as you think.

Less than two decades ago the idea that two men or two women could be legally married in the United States seemed absurd and unattainable. Today, thanks to the hard work of groups in Massachusetts like GLAD and MassEquality, it’s happening. Nobody had heard of civil unions just a few decades ago. Today, embracing them for same-sex couples is considered a moderate position. Not that long ago, gay teachers were routinely fired when they were outed. Today that seems unbelievable.

So when should our community start focusing on building our political power to the point where one day it won’t be considered so absurd or unattainable that an openly LGBT candidate can win the White House? That very thought is crossing the minds of more than a few people in places like Germany and France, where openly gay mayors in Berlin and Paris are now routinely talked about as their parties’ standard-bearers.

Our achievements as a movement, as a community, almost always flow from big ideas hatched by those who came before us. I hope we never stop thinking big. Those who will follow us need us to.


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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 1, 2008 10:14 AM

Chuck, I immediately thought of Paris, too. Didn't know that Berlin had a gay mayor.

As for the US...the grip the Religious Right holds on the Republican party has pushed both political parties and the issues they discuss increasingly to the right. None of the frontrunners for the presidency will even come out in favor of same-sex marriage! Nor do we yet have legal employment protection at a federal level.

While I think it’s always important to dream--if we don’t visualize good things, we’ll never achieve them--and as much as I’m ready for a non-white and/or female president, it remains to be seen if a majority of American voters are.

Personally Chuck, I think your glasses are a little too rosy. Yes, 20 years ago two people of the same sex getting married seemed unattainable, but we also didn't have more 4 out 5 states formally banning such unions in their laws and even constitutions. We also hadn't seen the largest anti-gay witch hunt in the history of the US military, and we hadn't seen a sitting US Congressman take to the floor of the House of Representatives to speak out against his own employment anti-discrimination bill, telling poor and violently persecuted Americans that their desire to be protected against discrimination like he advocated for wealthier minorities was "living in Oz".

A gay President? In THIS country? At this rate, I think we'll see a gay mission to Pluto first.

Hi Rebecca. Even amidst contemporary setbacks that sting, our movement's progress is undeniable. Setting the bar ever higher works. It's about optimism, not rosy glasses.

I actually think an openly LGBT Supreme Court justice might be as significant as an openly LGBT President. Though perhaps the one is as difficult to imagine as the other. In some ideal vision, I imagine Obama or Clinton nominating an out and proud justice who also happens to be the best and the brightest. A guy can dream, right?

You know, Winer, I can imagine that. I can imagine a gay Attorney General, Secretary of State, Supreme Court Justice, Senator, Legislator and Secret Service agent. But I can't imagine a gay President yet. It's taken so long to get to women and African-Americans that I can't see us arriving for a few more years.

But I can dream it. :)

I think the GLBT community would be better off if you could convince closeted US senators and representatives to come out, rather than try to elect a gay president. If you can't manage to get a multi-term incumbent in a blue state who is unmarried and in their sixties to come out, I really wouldn't have any presidential ambitions.