Gay U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) joined about a hundred LGBT Democratic activists from across the country at an inaugural reception Saturday night hosted by D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.
Takano and Pocan, who won election to their first term in Congress in November, said people attending the event were among the large number of LGBT supporters from across the country that gave money and provided long distance phone banking help to their campaigns.
“Let me just say what’s so gratifying about this election and being the first openly gay member of Congress from the state of California is that you helped me win in a part of the state that was known to be very socially conservative,” Takano told the gathering.
Pocan, who won the seat that lesbian House member Tammy Baldwin gave up to wage her successful race for the U.S. Senate, coasted to victory in November in a strong Democratic district in Madison, Wisc., after winning a hotly contested Democratic primary.
“I really appreciate all of the help that you gave for all of our seven folks who got elected his year because it’s nice to increase our numbers in the House and to have Tammy Baldwin in the Senate,” Pocan said.
He was referring to the all-time high figure of seven openly gay or bisexual members of Congress who either won re-election or election in November.
Gay incumbent Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) won their re-election bids. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Kyrsten Siema (D-Ariz.), who’s openly bisexual, joined Takano and Pocan in winning their seats as first-term House members.
Stein Club President Martin Garcia led a toast at the gathering in celebration of President Obama’s election to a second term and to what he said was the promise of continued advances in the fight for LGBT equality.
“We have folks from all over the country here with us celebrating the election of President Barack Obama,” Garcia said. “And Mark Takano and Mark Pocan, it was fantastic to have them there.”
Pocan, who introduced his husband, Phil Frank, told of how he and Frank were greeted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a picture-taking session at the time he and other House members were sworn into office.
“He bounced back and forth to take pictures and we get ready and he comes up and I say I want to introduce you to my husband, Phil,” Pocan said. “Oh – he smiled. And he had a look like light bulbs went on in his head.”
Pocan said he expects that he, Baldwin and the other gay House members will continue to educate and enlighten their congressional colleagues and others they interact with.
“So all the hard work that we do to try and fight for real equality, having members at the table and having folks like you working for different organizations and working at the Capitol doing the job that you do – that’s how we’re ultimately going to get things done,” he said.
Takano said it was a testament to his skilled campaign manager, a hardworking campaign staff, and his aggressive outreach to the large number of Latino and African American voters in his district who, in the past, had supported Republican candidates, that he won his race
In what to some was an unexpected turn of events, Takano said, “the first openly gay member of Congress in the state of California was not elected from San Francisco, was not elected from Los Angeles, was not elected from San Diego, but was elected from an area that has not sent a Democrat to Congress in 20 years.”
Among those attending the event was Stein Club co-founder Paul Kuntzler, 72, who said the first presidential inauguration he attended was that of President John F. Kennedy in January 1961. Kuntzler said he was a volunteer in the Kennedy campaign in Michigan in 1960 at the age of 18.