QUESTION: In 2013, Does A Political Candidate’s Sexual Orientation Still Matter?

Christine_Quinn_VF_2012_ShankboneIn 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?

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  • Triple S

    Well, I dunno about America, but here in Australia, it doesn’t mean anything. We had a lesbian Asian senator in our last government and the main thing we took away from her incumbency was that she was an arrogant, condescending and utterly incompetent Finance Minister who contributed to the enormous waste of money that Australia has never seen before.

    There was almost no reference to her sexuality however, and it was just a tiny background piece. There’s a gay minister in the now incumbent Coalition in fact, if I remember correctly, there has been absolutely no reference to him or his partner of something close to 20 years. There an independent representative of Sydney, Alex Greenwich. Married in Argentina to his German boyfriend, now husband. He is a little annoying how he kind of complains about everything, but again, almost no attention drawn to it.

    Sure, having gay marriage would be nice, but other than that, Australia doesn’t give a damn if you’re gay or straight, increasingly so even in rural areas, which are usually touted as being too unaccepting.

    Wow, that was a long post :P

  • niles

    I don’t think it will take too long before the gay voters of NY realize what a big mistake they made.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Whether or not a person is gay is not the deciding question anymore. What does decide to election, pro or con, is how they conduct themselves in public and to their constituency. Obviously Quinnn had some real problems (personality?) that led up to her defeat. Sexual orientation doesn’t matter very much any more (except in recalcitrant southn’ states and conservative covens) but you need to be seen as a friend to your own people. This obviously did not happen.

  • the other Greg

    Quinn’s problems had to do with policy, not personality. She paid the price for agreeing with Bloomberg against term limits four years ago, and she made enemies on a lot of more minor, mostly unrelated issues. The “Anybody But Quinn” sentiment took hold.

  • andy_d

    @the other Greg: You nailed it. It was more a case of voting against a person who threw people under the bus to further her own fortunes – political and, possibly, personal.

  • jwrappaport

    In the words of the Hitch: Can you be morally serious for even a second?

    We can’t get married in the vast majority of states, can be fired just for being gay, and are still beaten up and even killed in our most “liberal” enclaves dominated by solid democratic majorities. To boot, our legal inferiority is enshrined in countless state constitutions.

    Yes. It matters. If you don’t think so, you’re either naive or don’t live in the good ol’ US of A. Whether or not that’s why Quinn lost is another question, and frankly, I have no opinion on it.

  • alterego1980

    Look at the new Senator out of Wisconsin,Tammy Baldwin. Clearly some areas of the country have gotten over the gay issue. It’s good to know that a person can speak about the issues of our time such as the economy and not have to then answer 20 questions about being gay. She was elected because her message resonated with voters more than her opponent. We have lots of work to do in a lot of areas (i.e. The South) but every year, people can see the progress. A difference is being made.

  • Elloreigh

    In answer to the question: “In 2013, Does A Political Candidate’s Sexual Orientation Still Matter?”

    The truthful answer is, “It depends”. It depends on the demographics of one’s potential constituency, though perhaps less and less so. The days when one’s orientation becoming known meant death to one’s political career seem to be largely over very generally speaking. But still far from entirely over, given the attempts we still see by campaigns to use it as a means to smear opponents. Which goes back to what I said about constituents and whose vote one is courting.

    I wouldn’t vote for someone just because they’re gay. What a ridiculous idea.

    Lastly, a pet peeve: When something ‘begs the question’, that does not mean it raises the question. “Begging the question” describes a fallacy in which the person making an argument has assumed the truth of some point without offering it up for debate. It’s rampant in anti-gay arguments, which start off assuming that homosexuality is bad, wrong, etc. and which slide downhill from there. Such arguments “beg the question” of whether that unvoiced assumption is true.

    Clearly, the article’s author is not asserting that someone else’ arguments “beg the question”, but about something that raises some legitimate question toward which the author thinks we should turn our attention. But in misusing the phrase “begs the question”, has instead managed to drive me to distraction.

  • TJ

    @niles: Niles, I don’t know where you live or where you’re from, but you have NO IDEA of what you’re saying. If you knew ANYTHING about QuinnBerg, you’d know that she is ABSOLUTELY NOT FIT to run New York City or hold office anywhere. The fact that she’s a Homosexual should have no bearing whatsoever. Only the simpleminded would vote for someone based on their sexual orientation, sex, color, religion, ethnicity, etc. This is a woman who not only sold out the LGBT Community every chance she got, but also made a major flip flop and blatant lie on the news two weeks apart saying she was all for term limits, but said two weeks later that she was against term limits AND never said she was for it. WTF??? I saw both interviews she gave on NY1. I almost died on the spot.

    I also attended and anti-Quinn rally that was held in, of all places, a Lesbian bookstore/coffee shop. I was quite surprised and extremely pleased to see so many well-informed and well-educated GLBTers who attended the rally and that I wasn’t the only one who voted for politicians based on the issues and NOT their orientation. Obviously, you do not live in this city and, if you do, are certainly not well informed about much other than voting for a person based on their sexual orientation.

    Her background is very very sad. This is a woman who will cut anybody’s throat just to get ahead. At that rally, I discovered how vile a person she really is. Did you know that term limits wouldn’t have been overturned if it weren’t for her? This woman got EXACTLY (I wish I could bold that word) what she deserved.

    I’m a very proud and out Homosexual, but I’ll be damned if I’ll vote for someone just because they’re Gay or belong to a particular party. Would I have liked to see the first Gay mayor of one of the United States’ major cities? You bet I would, but not at such a high cost. She’s made so much money with Adolph Bloomberg (and that’s exactly how he acted as mayor as well as forcing a 3rd term on us that we initially voted against) that all she sees are dollar signs and not the people of this city who are looking for a real leader who will do what’s best for its citizens.

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