1990s

1997

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Cathy Woolard Breaks Barriers with Atlanta Council Victory

Cathy Woolard
Cathy Woolard

Georgia had never elected an out LGBTQ candidate to public office until 1997, mostly because few such candidates ever ran for office. In 1997, Victory Fund supported two out candidates for the Atlanta City Council, Malcolm Gideons and Cathy Woolard, with Woolard eventually winning her primary and general elections and shattering Georgia’s “rainbow ceiling.” Woolard represented Atlanta’s 6th council district, and in 2001, she won a citywide election to become city council president. 

Philip Reed Elected First Gay Black City Council Member in New York City

Phil Reed

Philip Reed was first elected to the City Council of New York in 1997 after years of community activism and public service, becoming its first out LGBTQ Black member. Reed got his start in political activism at the peak of the civil rights movement, organizing voter registration drives, youth boycotts and protests with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1989, armed with degrees in political science and nonprofit management, Reed became the project director for the East New York HIV/AIDS Project. He later served as the director of public affairs for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an LGBTQ youth center.

Reed was termed-limited and retired from public service in 2005. He earned Victory Fund support for both his 1997 and 2001 races and was a 2003 David Bohnett Leaders Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

Annise Parker Elected Citywide in Houston

Houston City Council Member Annise Parker
Houston City Council Member Annise Parker

After two previous attempts to win a seat on the city council, Houston’s Annise Parker won her election in 1997 to an-at large position, representing the whole city. Her election made her one of America’s most powerful LGBTQ leaders, with a large constituency rivaling those of many governors. Parker was reelected in 2005 and 2007 before serving as Houston comptroller and later mayor. 

HoustonMayor Annise Parker speaks at LGBTQ Victory Fund’s Houston Champagne Brunch onMarch 16, 2014.

Benjamin Cruz Appointed to Guam High Court

Benjamin Cruz

In a move that made him the highest ranking out LGBTQ judge at the time, Guam Superior Court Judge Benjamin “B.J.” Cruz was appointed to the territory’s Supreme Court in 1997 by then-Gov. Carl Gutierrez. While his 1984 Superior Court appointment drew backlash from conservatives – “Every Baptist on the island showed up to oppose [my nomination]” – he told The Advocate – his 1997 Supreme Court appointment went down with little fanfare. 

Cruz’s sexuality was well-known at the time. In 1995 he published a personal essay in a local magazine, Latte, that discussed his background and his relationship with another man. 

"Ninety-nine percent of the reaction to the Latte piece was positive," he told The Advocate. "People just came up to me and hugged me, saying I gave them hope.

Cruz served on the Guam Supreme Court until 2001, including two years as chief justice. He was elected to the Guam legislature in 2004 and served as the speaker in 2017 and 2018. He was elected territory-wide as Guam’s public auditor in 2018.

In a Victory Fund 20th anniversary video, Cruz, the Vice-Speaker of the Guam legislature, spoke about the solidarity between LGBTQ legislators:

Brian Bond Becomes LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute Executive Director

Brian Bond with then-Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin at a Victory Fund candidate fundraiser.
Brian Bond with then-Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin at a Victory Fund candidate fundraiser.

After William Waybourn left to run the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), David Clarenbach stepped in as executive director from 1995 to 1996, followed by Jonathan Wilson who briefly served as interim executive director while the board searched for a new standard-bearer. In 1997, they hired Brian K. Bond, director of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council at the Democratic National Committee. 

Bond had a good Rolodex and an idea of how to get LGBTQ people elected. “If our people choose to seek a higher office, we have to emulate the Christian Coalition,” Bond told The Advocate for their June 24, 1997, issue. He noted that more than half of the 129 out elected officials served in city or county government, “a great place to make a difference in the community and excellent training ground for higher office.”

Victory Fund’s Brian Bond and Bill Beck at a Victory Fund event in San Diego.

Bond is credited with substantially increasing the number of out gay and lesbian elected officials from 129 to 228. It included Tammy Baldwin, who became the first openly LGBTQ non-incumbent to win a seat in Congress in 1998, and Georgia State Rep. Karla Drenner, who became the first openly LGBTQ state legislator in the Deep South in 2000. In the 2002 election cycle, Victory Fund endorsed 43 candidates in nineteen states and D.C., winning 35 and losing just eight.

“Openly gay and lesbian candidates held their own on a day when gay Americans saw many of their allies on the national level defeated,” Bond said in a November 6, 2002, press release. “While social conservatives carried the day nationally, gay candidates around the country bucked that trend by winning election or re-election.”

A highlight of Bond’s six-year tenure was the historic White House meeting between 11 out elected officials and President Clinton on July 28, 1999. In the 90-minute meeting, the group urged Clinton to press Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Protection Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and expressed concerns about a conservative religious liberties bill. 

The meeting “marked a milestone on the long road to full inclusion of gay and lesbian Americans in the civic life of our nation,” Bond said in a press release. “One day, all office holders will be judged on their merits, the way we all should be. This meeting with the president represents one more sign that we are moving closer to that day.” 


LGBTQ Victory Fund Endorsed Candidates in 1997

LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed 21 candidates in 1997.

Wins:

Cathy Woolard (D), Atlanta City Council, Georgia

Annise Parker (D), Houston City Council, Texas

Jay Fisette (D), Arlington County Board, Virginia

Margarita Lopez (D), New York City Council, New York

Philip Reed (D), New York City Council, New York

Richard Gordon (D), San Mateo County Board, California

Mary Wiseman (D), Dayton City Council, Ohio

Rod Krueger (D), Minneapolis Library Board, Minnesota

Deborah Silber (D), Brooklyn Civil Court, New York

Susan Leal (D), San Francisco County Treasurer, California

Bill Weinberger (D), Los Angeles Charter Commission, California

Wally Swan (D), Minneapolis City Board, Minnesota

Jim McGill (D), Wilkinsburg Borough Council, Pennsylvania

Tom Roberts (D), Santa Barbara City Council, California


Losses:

Deborah Glick (D), Manhattan Borough President, New York

Malcolm Gideons (D), Atlanta City Council, Georgia

Dennis Van Avery (D), Minneapolis School Board, Minnesota

Bob Adams (D), Dania City Council, Florida

Jonathan Cooper (D), Suffolk County Board, New York

Withdrawals:

Dan Stewart (D), Plattsburgh Mayor, New York

Chris Wilson (D), Oakland Park City Council, Florida


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