"Phil Reese, February 12, 20010 -- Two months ago, Assemblyman John Perez became the first openly gay person selected for state House Speaker in history, but when he gets sworn in on March 1, he will be the second openly gay person to assume that position.
Yesterday, The Rhode Island House of Representatives selected and swore in Majority Leader Gordon Fox as the 222nd Speaker of one of the oldest legislatures in the nation. The legislature of predominately Catholic state of Rhode Island--which is only one of two New England states without marriage equality, and the only state to never have passed a marriage equality bill--is now being led by an openly gay African American. In March, 4% of state legislatures in America will be led by out and proud gay folks.
This is real progress.
In 1989 Republican US Senator Mark Hatfield's political career was nearly ruined when he was outed by Michael Petrelis at a fundraiser as he was supporting anti-gay legislation proposed by Jesse Helms. At that time, being openly gay was a death sentence for a political career. Barbara Jordan, the first southern African American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives, remained closeted for her entire life, despite her life-long partnership with Nancy Earl.
When Wisconsin Republican Steve Gunderson was outed in 1996 on the House Floor during the debate for the Federal Defense of Marriage Act..."
Want to read the rest? Please check out When California's John Perez becomes the openly gay Speaker, he won't be the first on outandaboutillinois.com.