Sue Kerr writes a great piece about the importance of openly gay candidates/elected officials, that I’d encourage you to check out. I especially appreciate this stated sentiment:

The crux of the matter is that Bruce is not the gay City Councilman, he’s a Councilman who is gay.  I have enumerated some of his “gay” credentials, but it is important to note that Bruce is a qualified, engaged Councilman who sincerely works to improve the quality of life for his District, particularly the Southside.  Agree with him or not, you cannot deny he is active and that he strives to connect with the residents and the business owners.

No matter if it is in politics or any other field, the more our society can see visible gay women and men in all professions and vocations, it helps to chip away at the homophobia and prejudice that some use against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities. I can think of gay elected officials (at the state level perhaps- I’m not mentioning any names) who may be effective politicians but who have done little for advancing LGBT issues because their closet inhibits their ability to be advocates for social acceptance and change.

I take issue however with one point Kerr makes that she describes as a part of his “gay credentials”:

He brokered a meeting between PA State Senator Daylin Leech and community leaders to discuss Senator Leech’s legislation to legalize same sex marriage in Pennsylvania.  We (I attended) would not have that access without Bruce’s credibility as an elected official and status in the LGBT community.  Bruce made sure Southwestern PA was part of the dialogue around this issue.

There are two potential problems with this claim. The smaller of the two is the notion of what Kraus did or didn’t do here.  As I heard the details, Daylin Leach sought out support across the state. It makes perfect sense that he contacted an openly gay elected official to assist him in meeting with gay couples. I believe that Kraus helps the LGBT community by being out because it allows him to serve as a conduit for dialogue with other LGBT supporters. Is that different than stating that “he brokered a meeting”?  Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it is a matter of semantics, but the end result was the same.

But the larger problem with this point for me is this:

We (I attended) would not have that access without…

The reality is that Daylin Leach, and many public officials are very accessible even without Kraus. I don’t mean to take anything away from the notion of “Kraus’s credibility,” which I believe he deserves. But, each of us have far more access than Kerr’s comment suggests, and when we suggest that we do not have access without a gatekeeper, it can perpetuate the false idea that we (LGBT constituents) are without a place at the table or that we are voiceless victims. Daylin Leach has been a presenter at the GLEC meeting where participants asked him questions and got first hand information, and staff at Senator Leach’s office are always very happy to assist. Other elected officials are also very accessible. Perhaps the clue is her comment , “I attended.” Kraus is Sue Kerr’s friend, and therefore, she was invited to this gathering. But the truth of the matter is that many many elected officials are very accessible to LGBT constituents, and certainly Daylin Leach is one of them.

I don’t have the same personal relationship with Bruce Kraus, In fact, even though I’ve been introduced to him a number of times, he never seems to remember who I am. That’s OK with me. If I had his job, I don’t know how I would remember everyone either. Some consider Bruce a bit of a loose canon who has a temper and blows up at people. I’ve heard it said that he seems to be more about himself, than about what is good for the whole. I’ve also heard the criticism that he is not a coaliton builder. I don’t know if that is true or not. Gay politicians are a lot like straight politicians. Any single one can find people who will say positive and negative things about them. But as I read the anonymous comment left on Kerr’s blog, I have to say that for me the fact that Bruce Kraus is openly gay, and works hard for his district is exactly what he has “done for us.”

However, from my perspective, just because he is an openly gay man, who works hard for his district, doesn’t make him “our champion.” I believe we can name a number of city council members who Kerr and others would name as friends and supporters for the LGBT community. One example: my own councilmember, Patrick Dowd who has been working with me, community members, and the Zone 5 police following last year’s gay bashings. Truly Bill Peduto is our champion. Natalia Rudiak is our champiuon, and so is Patrick Dowd. There may be others as well. Feel free to add comments below.

The LGBT community wins and steps forward, every time any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person is open about their sexual orientation and works hard to do their job and meet their responsibilities. Bruce has done that. The more openly gay or lesbian elected officials out there, the better for all of us.

via Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents :: Bruce Kraus: why the reelection of a gay City Councilman is good for all of us.

2 Comments

  1. Ummmm thumbs down on this as soon as you mentioned that Bruce Kraus doesn’t remember who you are. Why even bring that up?? What’s the point?

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