Alabama elects first openly gay man to public office
This is why we have to pay attention to the gains made in deep Red States. Because of very hard work by committed people in places that are often politically hostile, change is occurring. Being out in these states makes a huge difference — attitudes shift when people realize LGBT folks in their town or neighborhood care about the same issues that they do.
Howard Bayless has become the first openly gay man elected to public office in Alabama, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed him. Bayless, a former board chair of Equality Alabama and current co-chair of the Equality Federation, won a special election Tuesday for a seat on the Birmingham Board of Education. He follows in the footsteps of State Rep. Patricia Todd, who in an historic election last year became the first-ever openly gay or lesbian candidate elected to any office in the state.
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said Bayless' win is proof that significant breakthroughs like Todd's 2006 election have lasting effects on a state's politics. “Howard Bayless is a hero to gay people in Alabama, but his election proves that all kinds of voters respond to real leadership. There will come a time when gay and lesbian candidates will be able to win across the state, and people like Howard will be remembered as the trailblazers,” Wolfe said.
Bayless thanked his supporters and Victory Fund donors who contributed to his campaign, saying, “This election was about the future of this community, and the Victory Fund understands that in order to change hearts and minds we all have to roll up our sleeves and work hard for our all our neighbors, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm grateful for everything the Victory Fund has done to help us move our state forward.”
Bayless is a graduate of the Candidate and Campaign Training program run by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute. Todd also was trained under the program before winning her historic race last year.