Victory Institute Celebrates Announcement of Harvey Milk Stamp

article-2601824-1D016A8B00000578-290_233x383Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute President and CEO Chuck Wolfe issued the following statement today regarding the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony of the Harvey Milk forever stamp, set to take place at the White House on May 22:

“Harvey Milk urged LGBT people to seek public office because he understood the power of elected officials to create change. Since his high-profile election in San Francisco, thousands of LGBT people around the world have responded to his call to serve their own communities by seeking elected and appointed office, and indeed that is helping to change our world. We applaud President Obama and his administration for opening the White House to this historic occasion, and we are especially grateful to the Harvey Milk Foundation and everyone who worked to make this possible. We hope the issuance of the Harvey Milk stamp will inspire a new generation of young LGBT leaders to choose careers in public service and continue his important work.”

Milk is the first out official ever to be featured on a forever stamp

The Victory Institute is the nation’s largest resource for openly LGBT candidates and public officials, providing training and executive development to help them win public office and serve effectively. Learn more at

Election Results Herald New Era In Long Beach Politics

garcia_slateThe election deciding the next public officeholders for Long Beach, Calif., have indicated a significant challenge to the status quo of longtime local politics. In the hotly contested race for city mayor, polls showed leading support for Robert Garcia, the current vice mayor and owner of local media site and newspaper the Long Beach Post. In a runoff election on June 3, Long Beach voters will have the opportunity to shatter new records and prove that the city is ready for representation that reflects its dynamic and diverse community. If elected, Garcia would be the first openly LGBT as well as first Latino mayor of Long Beach, a city that with nearly half a million people is the seventh-largest in California.

Garcia’s victory in a race packed tightly with other Democrats is further evidence that the political tides are turning towards a younger and more engaged generation of leaders. Garcia’s campaign impressed many when he surged ahead of powerful and deeply connected favorites in the California political machine, such as Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal – who received the endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown –  and Long Beach City College Trustee Doug Otto. While Garcia’s sexual orientation did not really pose an issue in a city with a prominent LGBT community, the seasoned and well-funded heavyweights the 36-year old campaigned against is a testament to his forward-thinking agenda and strong record helping to improve the port city as vice mayor.

Heading into June, Garcia will now face off against Damon Dunn, a real estate investor and former NFL player who is a relative newcomer to Long Beach. The next mayor’s leadership chops will be put to the ultimate test, as they take the reins of a city that is still recovering from a tepid economy and rough-edged reputation. Garcia’s success would signal that a leader’s effective community stewardship and commitment to core values are taking far greater priority with voters over who they happen to love.

Historic Wisconsin Election Yields Transgender City Councilmember

Gypsy-Vered-Meltzer-x400Candidates for public office who are LGBT can face huge uphill battles on the campaign trail. One of the most frequent challenges for aspiring lawmakers is to avoid the label of “the gay candidate”. Sexual orientation can unfortunately become the sticking point in public discourse and media attention, something pundits and voters dwell on that can obscure consideration of the qualities needed to make a competent and committed public servant.  As candidates score unprecedented victories throughout the country, there is a balancing act of applauding these historic milestones in LGBT representation while reminding voters that effective leadership involves so much more than whom somebody loves or how they identify.

While the advancement of LGBT people into appointed or elected positions is certainly an achievement worthy of celebration, the election victory of a transgender candidate, for any office in any city, is truly ground-breaking. This week, the residents of Appleton, Wis. voted in a transgender candidate to the city council, the first openly trans individual in the state’s history to serve as a public official.

With a head of dreadlocked hair and over fifty tattoos, Gypsy Vered Meltzer is not exactly the most immediately palatable hopeful for public office, especially in Middle America. His victory, therefore, signals a very promising sign of inevitable change in unlikely places. Though local and state advocacy groups cheered his success, Meltzer, 31, is steeling himself for community opposition. “I can see some push back, but I hope they’ll get over it,” said Meltzer, who identifies as a man. “I don’t want to lose focus on the issues and increasing communications between the city and its residents. I look forward to the day when this isn’t as interesting of a topic.”

Meltzer hopes that his election will help inspire young people and those from all walks of life to become engaged in politics. “As someone who is part of various subcultures, I want to show everyone that the door’s open, come on in and be part of local government,” he said.

Area activists could not be more thrilled with the development. “Every time a trans person succeeds in anything related to the public, it is a step forward,” said Loree Cook-Daniels, policy and program director at FORGE, a Milwaukee transgender advocacy group. “It’s an acknowledgement that we’re just like everyone else and it shouldn’t be the issue by which we’re judged.”

Iowa celebrates five-year mark of marriage equality

796px-LGBT_flag_map_of_Iowa.svgThese days, the multitude of LGBT-related news and events in the media is overwhelming. At each turn, it seems that statewide bans on same-sex marriage are being challenged in the courts, and often in states expected not to see equality for a while to come. The legal statuses of thousands of couples can change overnight, and it has not been a rare occasion in recent months to wake up one day with more states welcoming same-sex marriage than when you went to bed. In this breakneck political arena, it is sometimes easy to forget how these exciting precedents have been set.

Yesterday marks the fifth anniversary of the ruling on Varnum v. Brien, a lawsuit that introduced marriage equality to Iowa in 2009. In a unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court, the state’s same-sex marriage ban was declared unconstitutional, helping to usher in an era of lightning-speed progress for LGBT rights across the country. At the time, Iowa was the third state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage; in a short span, it is now in the company of 16 other states, as well as the District of Columbia.

Since then, LGBT Americans have become ever more prominent voices in daily life and culture as well as in politics. It is now possible in more places to accomplish the goals and fulfill the promises that make this country stand apart but have been denied for so many. While these milestones could not have been achieved without commitment from our allies and advocates, authentic LGBT representation in government is truly the lynchpin to guaranteeing that LGBT rights are protected, equity is ensured, and needs are not overlooked.

All Iowans can marry whom they love today, but leaders who are dedicated to equality is still necessary to preserve the progress made, keep the needle moving, and keep any shifting political tides from rolling back rights that were so hard won.

Alabama’s Only Openly LGBT Lawmaker

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.12.59 PMThe Huffington Post sat down this week for an interview with Patricia Todd, an Alabama lawmaker who is also the state’s only openly LGBT public official. The discussion centered on the social and political climate of Alabama in the wake of evolving public opinion towards LGBT rights.

Civil rights advocates have clearly witnessed incredible progress in recent years, with marriage equality making its way to each state and LGBT voices in politics more prominent than ever. With so many victorious headlines, it’s often difficult to remember how many Americans must still endure oppression and inequality.

As an openly lesbian woman in the state legislature, Todd is breaking ground in a lonely field. Elected first in 2006, when 81 percent of Alabama voters approved of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, she knows what its like to be on the front lines and pave the way for successors.

Even as many Southern legislatures have begun to push for “religious liberties” measures that would sanctify LGBT discrimination, Todd says there is nowhere else in the country where she would want to serve. “Frankly, I would be bored living in a progressive state,” she said. For her, effective leadership means getting outside of one’s comfort zone in order to move the needle.

There is still quite a ways to go before equality for LGBT individuals in the state is realized, and Todd says that the best way to bridge the gap between her and conservative Alabamans is to forge meaningful connections. “My relationship with my legislative peers is strong, especially among Republicans,” she says. “I am proud to say that I have not been subject to any hate speech or treated any differently because I am gay. Listening and respect go a long way to build these positive relationships.”

Looking ahead, Todd plans to revive a bill proposed last year aiming to invalidate the state’s sex education policy, which requires teachers to emphasize that, “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public”.

She also intends on challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban. She and her wife, Jen, plan to submit their state taxes as a married couple. Todd says that if the state rejects their return, they have a “team of attorneys” waiting on the sidelines to file a lawsuit for wrongful discrimination.

Photo:  Patricia Todd’s Facebook Page