September 16, 2010 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Queery: Heather Mizeur

Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Heather Mizeur appears poised for re-election to the Maryland House of Delegates representing the 20th District (Montgomery County) after Tuesday’s primary.

Mizeur, who ran on a platform of broader health care availability, renewable energy production and equal rights for gays, says being openly lesbian has been a political advantage.

“The district overall is overwhelmingly progressive, one of the most progressive in the state,” she says. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of conservatives, but by and large, it’s really been an asset more than anything else. When I was running in 2006 there were seven of us running for three seats. Two were incumbents, five were challengers. When I was knocking on doors, I heard some people say, ‘You’re all the same on so many of the issues, I’m having a hard time distinguishing.’ Being able to say, ‘Well, I’m a lesbian,’ helped me stand out.”

Mizeur, a 37-year-old Takoma Park resident, grew up in Blue Mound, Ill., and came to Washington in 1994 where she worked in the offices of several Democratic members of Congress. She was Sen. John Kerry’s director of domestic policy from 2003 to 2006. A former Takoma Park City Council member, Mizeur has been in the General Assembly since 2007.

She gained national exposure when she was named a pivotal superdelegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, an episode she remembers with mixed feelings.

“I actually could have done without a lot of the elements of that process,” she says. “I felt there was too much emphasis on the candidates trying to court and recruit from the delegate count rather than running the primary system. … I didn’t think it was my place to pick a side or step in until all the voters had their say.” (She eventually endorsed Obama.)

Mizeur enjoys golf, wine, food, travel and quality time with family and friends in her down time. She and her spouse, Deborah Mizeur, were married in 2005 on the Chesapeake Bay and had a legal ceremony in Napa Valley, Calif., in 2008. They share their home with their dog, Chester.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out in college, in 1993. I was most scared to tell my parents because I feared it would be the first time in my life I was going to disappoint them. We are a very close family and I was always the over-achiever, rule-following child that wanted my parents to be proud of me. I was terrified that this was going to be a wedge in our family. Thankfully, our family bond was stronger than that and after an initial bumpy few weeks, we returned to our regular interactions and my parents could not be more supportive.

Who’s your gay hero?

I don’t often think of people with labels attached, but if pressed, I would have to say Rachel Maddow. She’s done so much to promote issues of importance to our community with a savvy intelligence that resonates with audiences writ large.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Ha. Well, the question presumes that I have an active nightlife. My preference is to drink really good wine with friends in the comfort of our home. When I choose to go out, though, I like MOVA quite a bit.

Describe your dream gay wedding.

We had our dream gay wedding in 2005, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Because Maryland hadn’t (and still hasn’t) stepped up to the plate on marriage equality, we borrowed from a Quaker tradition and had everyone in attendance sign an artist’s rendering of our wedding vows. This beautiful marriage license is framed and hanging in our living room. Some day soon we’ll make Maryland respect that and start granting licenses here in the Free State.

What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?

I’ve spent my entire professional career fighting to make sure that everyone in this country has access to affordable, high-quality health care. I’m most proud of laws I sponsored to cover an additional 170,000 Marylanders with health coverage. I’m eager to help Maryland implement federal health reform options in the most meaningful, innovative way possible.

What historical outcome would you change?

The assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

As a kid, it would have to be Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video release and craziness over his album. As an adult, I would say Melissa Etheridge playing the Grammys post-chemo and nailing her parts of the Janis Joplin song with Joss Stone. What an inspiration on how to find your strength to overcome adversity. It still gives me goose bumps.

On what do you insist?

That the toilet paper roll from the top of the roll.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

Musings about missing a mentor who died of breast cancer in 1998. Penny was a state legislator in Illinois. Her niece recently contacted me to tell me she has been following my work in Maryland and that her aunt would have been proud. Caught me off guard. Made me cry. Felt like sharing the story with my friends – especially the ones from Illinois that also knew and admired her.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Just a Small Town Girl”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Wake up, check my email, walk the dog, read the newspaper, eat breakfast, work, have lunch, go to a meeting, work, walk the dog, eat dinner, work, watch Rachel Maddow, kiss my wife goodnight, sleep. Repeat.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

By and large, traditional Catholic teachings. But in James’ Epistle, he says, “Faith without works is dead.” I believe we have to work in the here and now to create our heaven, our peace, our community and our relationship with our Creator.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Our community is as diverse as America and it will take all of us to win. So everyone take a deep breath, remember what we’re fighting for and work together.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My wife.

What gay stereotype annoys you most?

How can you choose? They’re all so reductive.

What’s your favorite gay movie?

“Boys Don’t Cry” and “The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love.”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Registering for wedding gifts when you’re both already two adults that own everything.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Being selected a national Truman Scholar in 1994.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

I was aware at an early age that the world is much bigger than any of us, and that learning never stops. But if I had the chance to tell my 18-year-old self anything, it would be a message similar to what many gay teens need to hear – that we’re all going to be OK. Specifically, it would have been nice to know that I will, indeed, marry an amazing woman and my parents will support me and so will my community; and that – gasp – I can even still have a viable chance at serving in elected public office as an openly lesbian candidate.

Why Washington?

It’s where political addicts live. It’s where you meet other people that want to make our country and world a better place.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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