Kyrsten Sinema, who is openly bisexual and a top candidate in the Democratic primary in Arizonas 9th district, said her prospective constituents dont care about her sexuality.
Even with a record number of openly gay candidates running for office this cycle, the caucus of openly gay Members in the 113th Congress could fall to just one: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who doesn’t face a competitive race in November. But given the crop of candidates on the ballot, Polis is likely to have openly gay colleagues next year.
And political observers expect the field of non-heterosexual candidates to continue to grow each cycle.
“Thirty years ago, people thought they didn’t know anybody gay. They had kinds of stereotypes. Now they’re finding out that their brother, son, their cousin, their friend, whoever” is gay, explained Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a strong supporter of LGBT rights.
“The idea of being gay is losing the fear factor, the strangeness factor and people are realizing, they are just ordinary people, good bad or indifferent, like anybody else,” the New York Democrat said between votes Friday.
“That being the case, of course you’re going to see more gay candidates,” he added.
The presence of so many openly gay candidates on the trail this year, including a Republican, is emblematic of the watershed cultural shift that has occurred in Americans’ views of gay people and gay marriage during the past few years.
In 2004, Republicans used ballot initiatives against gay marriage as a wedge issue. Then, 54 percent of Americans believed gay and lesbian relationships were “morally wrong,” according to Gallup polling data. Today, the majority of Americans not only believe that gay and lesbian relationships are “morally acceptable” but that gay marriage should be legal.
Pollsters have been amazed by the speed with which acceptance of gay relationships and gay marriage has grown across most demographic groups.
“Attitudes toward gays in general, toward gay rights, toward gay marriage are all evolving at a much faster rate than really any other issue that we’ve seen in the history in polling “ influential Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said.
Mellman explained that the shift was likely the result of a combination of factors, rooted in the larger number of people who come out as gay. “More people know people who are gay, and as people know more people who are gay, they become much more acceptant,” he said.
Gay rights groups hope to see that acceptance permeate Congress more and more as the number of openly gay Members grow.
“The more openly LGBT Members we have in Congress, the more their colleagues will see that our lives are similar to everyone else,” said Paul Guequierre, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “When they are voting on matters of equality, they will see firsthand how those matters affect people.”
Frank has been surprised by how fast attitudes have shifted.
“Things have moved much more quickly than I thought” they would, he said.
The 16-term Member said he believed that within a decade, the U.S. would have federal anti-discrimination laws that included gay people and that same sex-marriage would be legal in states that have about three-quarters of the country’s population.
“I think that within 10 years, we’ll have won the fight,” Frank said.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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