January 5, 2011 | by Staff reports
Congress gets 4th openly gay member

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) (Blade photo by Michael Key)


Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) was sworn in Wednesday, becoming the fourth openly gay member of the 112th Congress and only the seventh out gay person to serve in the House.

He joins gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who were reelected in November.

“I am thrilled to be the next congressman from Rhode Island’s First District and so grateful to the members of the LGBT community who supported my campaign,” Cicilline said on election night. “I look forward to going to Washington and fighting for the issues important to all of us — creating good jobs, protecting Social Security, working to fight global climate change and, of course, fighting for full equality for our community.”

The former Providence mayor succeeds Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who retired. He ran in a Democratic stronghold and was a powerhouse fundraiser. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Cicilline raked in nearly $1.7 million over the course of his campaign.

Cicilline earned the endorsement of many national LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

“This is an historic day for LGBT Americans, and another step toward a government that truly reflects our country’s diversity,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson, said on election night that he was “thrilled” that Cicilline will join the 112th Congress.

“No doubt he will carry on the record of retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy in ensuring Rhode Island’s first district is represented by an effective congressman in promoting equality for all people,” Cole said.

Cicilline defeated John Loughlin, a Rhode Island State Assembly member, who was accused by some of using gay-baiting tactics late in the campaign. Loughlin ran ads emphasizing that he’s a husband and a father — possibly a reference to the fact that Cicilline is gay and single — and defended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during a debate.

Cicilline was the only one of three prominent openly gay congressional candidates to emerge victorious in a tough night for Democrats. Steve Pougnet, who’s gay and mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., lost his bid to unseat six-term incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.). And Ed Potosnak, a schoolteacher and former staffer for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), lost his bid to unseat Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), a one-term incumbent.

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