In one of the great political surprises and upsets of 2013, openly lesbian City Council speaker Christine Quinn was defeated in her bid to become both the first female and first gay mayor of New York City. Quinn, who just four months ago had an aura of inevitability around her campaign to secure the democratic party nomination, came in a distant third to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
Even more shocking is the lack of support Quinn had from LGBT voters as compared to the very heterosexual and married de Blasio. A NY1 Exit Poll found that Quinn had gotten 39% of the LGBT vote to de Blasio’s 47%. Running for Quinn’s empty spot on the City Council in what is becoming known as the “gay seat,” openly gay Corey Johnson defeated out lesbian Yetta Kurland with 62% of the vote.
When a gay candidate losing even the LGBT vote to a straight candidate in one election and two gay candidates facing off in another, it begs the question as to what issues are the most important to voters. Clearly in a state like New York where marriage equality is law, LGBT rights aren’t going to be a very controversial issue. Many of Quinn’s backers liked the fact that she would’ve been a gay person in a position of great power in a city that has many of its LGBT citizens worried about their safety in the wake of this year’s rise in anti-gay hate crimes. However, what is clear is that a majority of LGBT voters connected to the populist message of de Blasio.
In a country that is more gay friendly by the minute and races towards marriage equality and equal rights at a fairly rapid pace, it’s quite possible that we’re beyond worrying about the sexual orientation of our aspiring political leaders and that LGBT issues are becoming a smaller piece of the big picture when evaluating them.
So our question is, Queerty readers: In 2013, does a political candidate’s sexual orientation still matter?