Chuck Wolfe

Who was the first openly LGBT candidate elected in the U.S.?

Filed By Chuck Wolfe | December 17, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Allan Spear, Elaine Noble, Harvey Milk, Jim Yeadon, Kathy Kozachenko

This week we asked Gay Politics Report readers who they thought was the first openly LGBT candidate ever elected to public office in the U.S. (Poll results here.)

The five choices included the first five openly gay and lesbian candidates to win office anywhere in the country. Readers were asked to pick who they thought was first from among Harvey Milk, Elaine Noble, Kathy Kozachenko, Allan Spear and Jim Yeadon. Almost 1,200 readers responded.

Here's the answer to the question:

  • About 42 percent chose Harvey Milk, who won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in late 1977. He's certainly the most famous of the early LGBT elected officials, but Milk actually comes in at No. 5 out of the five on this list.
  • The fourth person elected as openly gay was Jim Yeadon, who won a seat on the Madison, Wisconsin City Council in October of 1976.
  • Allan Spear was reelected to Minnesota State Senate in November of 1976 after coming out in office in 1974, making him the third openly gay candidate to win office in the U.S.
  • Elaine Noble won a closely-watched race for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in November of 1974. She was just the second openly LGBT person ever elected to public office in America. 21 percent of readers thought she was the first.
  • And only 10 percent got the question right, choosing Kathy Kozachenko, who won a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council in January of 1974, making her the first out LGBT candidate to be elected in the U.S.

Today more than 500 openly LGBT elected officials are serving at all levels of government. Find out who's out and serving in public office in your area here.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Very interesting and informative.

Hopefully, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the following question will fall into the "who knows. who cares" category: "When was the LAST openly homophobic candidate elected to office in the USA"?

Chuck, I am curious about the statistic that there are over 500 openly LGBT serving at all levels of government. Does this factor in all levels of government service? The military?

I'm wondering because if this number is as extraordinarily low as it appears to be when compared to the total LGBT population of the US, then it seems we have an awfully long and steep road ahead of us, and that even in the age of Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin we have still just barely scratched the surface of having what could honestly be called a real presence in American government.

When you say openly LGBT people does this include openly bisexual, pansexual, and transgender or just gay, lesbian, and transsexual?

In my experience, the media certainly does not make ANY fanfare when a bisexual or pansexual candidate runs for any office. It's apparently just not newsworthy. The same goes for transgender and intersex individuals -- only transsexual people seem to make the grade because that is supposedly what the mainstream public wants to read about or can even comprehend.

Honestly, I can't remember ever seeing a headline about a genderqueer or bisexual politician or other government official. It is always FTM or MTF pre-op or post-op, gay, or lesbian. So these statistics could very well be skewed in favor of only a small segment of the entire queer community.


I know they include at least one bisexual elected official among the 500: My friend, openly bi Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

I knew it wasn't Harvey but I'd have still gotten it wrong. I picked Elaine Noble.

I knew it wasn't Harvey, but did not have a clue who it was.

In Pittsburgh, PA, in the 40s, 50s, and 60s our Representative to the US House of Reps, James G. Fulton, was known to be gay, but it was not polite back then to discuss a politicians sex life. He served 14 consecutive terms in office from 1944 until 1971.

I am surprised that only 500 GLBTs are holding elected office in government. I go with Jimmy Carter on his declaration that one day not far off we will have a gay President.

Thanks for setting the record straight (no pun intended) ... I didn't know about Kathy K. in Ann Arbor -- a big college town, that makes sense! -- but I would almost puke every time the hype around the movie Milk would claim that Harvey was the first -- what a conveniently sloppy re-writing of history!