A New Hampshire Democrat on Tuesday became the first openly transgender person elected to state office in the country.
Stacie Laughton, a Nashua selectman, will represent portions of the state’s second largest city located on the Massachusetts border in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She and two other Democrats defeated two Republicans who had also ran.
The N.H. House has 400 members from 103 districts. Each lawmaker has an average of 3,300 constituents, but the most populated districts can have up to 13 representatives.
Laughton did not immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment, but she said in a campaign video she would “always fight for the rights of the LGBT community.” New Hampshire lawmakers in 2009 rejected a bill that would have added gender identity and expression to the state’s non-discrimination law.
Laughton told the [Nashua] Telegraph newspaper she hopes her election will inspire other LGBT people to seek political office.
“I believe that at this point, the LGBT community will hopefully be inspired,” Laughton told the newspaper on Nov. 8. “My hope is that now maybe we’ll see more people in the community running, maybe for alderman. Maybe in the next election, we’ll have a senator.”
Gay former state Rep. Ray Buckley, who chairs the New Hampshire Democratic Party, welcomed Laughton’s election.
“Serving in the N.H. House is an extraordinary experience because it brings together 400 citizens from all walks of life to work together,” he told the Blade. “Having a transgendered person as a member of the House will bring a unique experience and perspective to the challenges facing the state.”
Joelle Ruby Ryan, a transgender activist who is also a professor at the University of New Hampshire, agreed.
“Words cannot express how excited I am about the election of Ms. Stacie Laughton to the N.H. House of Representative,” she told the Blade. “As a transgender activist in N.H. for 20 years now, I can honestly state that this is a pivotal milestone in our long struggle for full equality and civil rights.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also described Laughton’s election as “historic.”
“We’re thrilled she was elected,” said Keisling. “She did it the grassroots way you have to do it in New Hampshire. She’s part of the community and clearly did it right, so it’s pretty impressive she got elected.”
Nashua voters elected Laughton on the same night former state Sen. Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne to become New Hampshire’s next governor. The state’s next congressional delegation will be all women after former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster defeated incumbent U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass respectively.
House Minority Leader Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth) could also potentially become the next speaker of the N.H. House after Democrats regained control of the chamber.
Gay candidates elected to state Senate, Executive Council
State Rep. David Pierce (D-Etna) on Tuesday became the first openly gay state Senate candidate elected to the chamber. He defeated state Rep. Joe Osgood (R-Claremont) by a 17,719-9,940 vote margin to represent the 5th Senate District that includes the town of Hanover in which Dartmouth College is located.
Pierce, who testified in support of New Hampshire’s marriage equality bill in 2009 and against a measure earlier this year that would have repealed it, told the Blade during an interview last month Osgood pointed out to his supporters and local reporters the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed his campaign.
He said after his election that his sexual orientation never became an issue for voters.
“Thankfully, my Tea Party opponent was cowed into not raising the gay issue in this campaign,” said Pierce. “That’s because [New Hampshire] has led the nation in the marriage equality fight; we’re the ‘Life Free or Die’ state. The issues that matter most to the voters — jobs, economy, equality, health care, education, environment — are why they cast their ballots for me by a 28-point margin. I’m proud to be the first out candidate elected to the N.H. Senate, and will never forget my roots. My husband [and] our two daughters deserve nothing less.”
Gay former state Rep. Chris Pappas will represent Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, and surrounding towns in the Merrimack Valley on the Executive Council after defeating Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns by 63,641-50,907 vote margin. Pappas will succeed former Manchester Mayor Ray Wieczorek who did not seek another term on the five-member gubernatorial advisory and oversight body.
“Most Americans realize that your ability to do a job is not determined by your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats. “And that reality is starting to show up at the ballot box.”
“I am excited about the coming years and the possibilities for genuine progress in our slate of agenda items for transgender rights,” she said, referring to Laughton’s election. “In particular, I hope to see N.H. pass a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity/expression, which currently exists in the rest of New England, as well as work on other policy issues. The elections were inspiring for progressives and minority groups in general. Stacie Laughton’s election is amazing evidence that times really are a-changing, and our hard work for justice and liberation for all gender-variant people is finally bearing fruit.”