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Le Figaro, France

The First Openly Lesbian Senator
Elected in the United States

By Sarah Pinard

Translated By Jessica Eaton

9 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

France - Le Figaro - Original Article (French)

On November 6, the Democrat Tammy Baldwin, already a member of the House of Representatives, was elected to the U.S. Senate in the state of Wisconsin against Republican Tommy Thompson.

At 50 years old, Tammy Baldwin made history in becoming the first openly gay senator. The progressive elect from Wisconsin triumphed, in this pivotal state of the American presidential election, facing a Republican, the ex-governor of the state from 1987 to 2001. She had already experienced a legislative mandate by being a member of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2012, where she had been the first lesbian accepted to occupy the post.

Born February 11, 1962 in Wisconsin, which she represents today in Congress, Tammy Baldwin did all her schooling and spent her political career there. After obtaining a doctorate, she practiced as a lawyer from 1989 to 1992. She started her political career with elected office in Dane County in 1986. During her first candidacy, she was public with her sexual orientation, declaring that she did not want to make the choice between her private life and her professional career. She was only 24 years old.

At a very young age, Tammy Baldwin absorbed books and films that helped her be proud of her identity. She admits to having watched the movie Before Stonewall (on the police repression of gays at the Stonewall bar in New York) a dozen times, as well as the film The Life & Times of Harvey Milk (on the life of the first gay city council representative of San Francisco). After a 15-year relationship, she separated from her partner Lauren Azar, a member of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, in 2010.

Defending the Middle Class Above All

The voters of Wisconsin did not elect a lesbian but an ultra-liberal Democrat. Tammy Baldwin preferred to not focus her Senate campaign on the recognition of gay rights. According to the New York Times, the gay groups were surprisingly discreet with their public support. To avoid any controversy, they preferred to keep a distance from her candidacy. There were no huge galas organized to collect funds or endorsements from gay celebrities. The Democratic candidate only benefited from financial donations from LGBT groups to ensure that her advertising spots were aired.

To win, Tammy Baldwin focused essentially on the economy and health care. She made protection of the middle class a priority. She defended strong and controversial positions, notably the “Buffet Rule,” a tax for the wealthiest classes, as well as Obama’s health care reform system, of which she helped write a part of the text. This was a not inconsiderable point of her program, as she was faced with Tommy Thompson, the former Secretary of Health under the Bush government from 2001 to 2005.

Opposed to the war in Iraq, she was equally noted for supporting a withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan, explaining that “the billions it costs our country are better spent reducing the federal debt and lowering taxes for middle class families and small businesses” instead of waging war.

A Victory for the Gay Community

On several levels, it is a real victory for gay Americans, who already number three Democrat members in the House of Representatives. Tammy Baldwin becomes a symbol in a state that does not recognize marriage between two people of the same sex. In 2006, Wisconsin modified its constitution to specify that a marriage is between one man and one woman, therefore refusing recognition of any unions between two homosexual persons.

The senator-elect will leave her seat in the House of Representatives to Democrat Mark Pocan, also openly gay.



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