Alaska, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia – these are the only 5 states in the nation that have no LGBT elected officials, according to the Victory Fund.
The Fund recently announced the 36 LGBT candidates
they endorsed for elected office this year. Based on the categories below their map, 30 states currently have LGBT representation at the state or federal level, another 15 have at least one elected LGBT official below the state level, and only 5 states have no LGBT representation at any level. Alaska is in the last category.
We don’t have a single gay or lesbian elected official in the entire state of Alaska? Hogwash.
We must have a few gay officials among the hundreds of people who hold public office in this state. There are thousands of LGBT people living here, and we are just as capable as heterosexuals. Statistically, it’s inconceivable that there wouldn’t be at least a few elected gay people. Maybe not in high profile positions, but somewhere.
Historically in Alaska, the leaders were people who might not have won elections in the more settled regions of the country. Some would not have been allowed to run for office in parts of the Lower 48. But in frontier Alaska, a capable and friendly person who would commit to staying for a few years might be recognized as a leader despite other characteristics. Some Alaska towns are still like that, and one or two might have a good leader who happens to be gay.
But they wouldn’t be likely to talk about something they were willing to overlook, and a gay leader elected despite their identity wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. It’s besides the point.
For the national LGBT movement, knowing about them is an important point. Someone who is elected in spite of being gay cannot advocate for changes on our behalf without calling attention to their own identity.
When the Victory Fund said “openly LGBT” they didn’t mean being out to friends and relatives, or even co-workers, they meant being publicly out. For a candidate in a city with a large LGBT population, the national exposure can help them get elected. They might as well come out publicly during the campaign so they won’t be outed in office. But there isn’t much advantage in a small town, or for someone who is already in office despite being gay.
So the Fund’s map is basically accurate, although it isn’t true. They just need to change the description of the Horizon category that includes Alaska from “no openly LGBT elected officials” to “no LGBT elected officials who want to come out to the whole world.” That’s probably true for the other 4 Horizon states as well.
But if you’re a capable and friendly Alaskan who wants to run for office as a publicly out gay man or lesbian, the Victory Fund
would be happy to add Alaska to their list of active states… and we’d be happy to move out of that column.