Christine O’Donnell lost the gay vote – is that a sign that we are post-gay?

The new mayor of New York won’t be a gay woman, and gay New Yorkers seem fine with that. Once a front runner, failed mayoral candidate Christine Quinn was vanquished in the Democratic primary by Bill de Blasio, the New York City Public Advocate, who will be facing Republican candidate, Joe Lhota.

Depending on your opinion of incumbent NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, Quinn was closely tied to the mayor, and many saw this as a debit to her campaign – this coupled with some of her positions on term-limits, the stop-and-frisk law, and questions about the misappropriation of council funds has pushed her to a third-place showing in the primary behind de Blasio, who won 40% of the vote and Bill Thompson who scored 26% (Quinn ended with a less-showy 16%).

What is interesting though is the numbers when looking at LGBT voters – polls show that only 39% of gay voters picked Quinn, while a 48% voted for de Blasio.

And while people are quick to eulogize identity politics, it’s important to point out that de Blasio isn’t exactly a stranger to the LGBT community – he ran on an LGBT-supportive platform, and his wife was open about her past relationships with women. It seems to LGBT voters that this was a case of “all things equal” – LGBT rights are pretty secure in New York City – marriage equality is an issue that has bipartisan support in the city – Lhota is also pro-gay marriage, so really LGBT voters were free to vote on other issues that were important to them – particularly progressive LGBT voters who found Quinn’s chummy relationship with Bloomberg to be problematic. And that’s key – identity politics aren’t over, and we’re not in a post-gay world – but instead, we’re looking at an almost-utopic election for gay voters – their rights weren’t up for grabs, so they were able to concentrate on other concerns. If the race was more diverse when it comes to gay rights – and if equality was more of a wedge issue for New York, then the race would’ve been different; if marriage equality wasn’t a reality in New York, and de Blasio was peddling “civil unions but not gay marriage” then maybe gay voters would be looking to vote on those issues – or at least consider them when moving forward.

I’m not a New Yorker – though I’d love to be – so this race had little practical effect on my day-to-day life. But a Quinn victory would’ve been great in visibility for our country – and internationally, especially in light of the abuses of gay citizens in Russia, and the Putin government’s inadequate response. It also would’ve been a great shattering of a glass ceiling – we need more women in politics and a female mayor of New York, arguably the most vital city with the highest profile in the country, would definitely be an important step forward in achieving gender equality. But none of these laudable achievements should come at the expense of a more-qualified candidate. We saw that when voters are all operating on an equal footing, then the people who deserve nominations get them.

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Filed under commentary, Nonfiction, politics

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