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LGBTQ history in Palm Springs

Gerard Veldhoven
Gerard Veldhoven - FILE

REFOCUS by Gerard Veldhoven

During the past years we have realized that a large number of LGBTQ citizens have entered races for public office.

Much has changed since Harvey Milk became a high ranking San Francisco city official, despite the fact he was openly gay. In Canada, Svend Robinson entered politics and was chosen to be member of parliament for Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. Hailed by Canada’s LGBTQ community as a defender and proponent for equal rights, he sat as a member from 1979 until 2004.

He came out as gay in 1988 and immediately fought long and hard for recognition of our country’s LGBTQ citizens. As the first openly gay member in the House of Commons, Robinson became a solid representative for those seeking equality. Of course, more followed in his footsteps and were equally concerned for Canada’s LGBTQ population.

We also know that Canada was, and remains, a leader on the world-stage, especially with a prime minister who advocates publicly for equality, as no head of government before him.

Heads of other governments were chosen on their ability to govern rather than revealing their sexual orientation. Iceland made history when openly gay Johanna Sigurdardottir was chosen as prime minister. Former Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupa made history in his country. Luxembourg voted in Xavier Bettel, who married his partner and indeed made some waves on the world stage as he introduced his husband, now commonly referred to as the “the first husband,” to other world leaders and their spouses in Milan, Italy last year.

Ireland also chose a gay man to head its government. Leo Vardkar was hosted by Justin Trudeau and together marched in Montreal’s Pride Parade last year.

The surprise was the election Serbia’s Prime Minister Brnabic. That part of the world is generally considered unfriendly towards the LGTBQ community. The U.S. considers Serbia a “flawed democracy.” The point is that more politicians are coming forward regardless of their sexual orientation or true gender identity and expression.

The United States, hardly a progressive nation regarding LGBTQ equality, especially under Donald Trump, is showing some positive movement. Palm Springs, a city in California’s Coachella valley that boasts wealth and beauty, has suddenly made headlines with its political landscape. In a move that is of extreme importance to the LGBTQ community world-wide, this city of about 47,000 folks has just voted in a city council that consists of five openly LGBTQ members.

Mayor Robert Moon insists, “To tell the truth, I didn’t think about it until after the election. You see, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not an issue here.”

According to one councillor, it was not that LGBTQ candidates swept the election but that they did so with barely a mention of sexual orientation or gender identity. He continued that voters cared more about policing, homelessness and roads.

We must not minimize this amazing feat. Anytime an LGBTQ member successfully enters the political arena and is successful in a win the news is magnificent, as it indicates how far we have come, and that, my friends, must be celebrated. We cannot shrug off such success and we also must remind ourselves how hard we have fought for equality, and that includes the embrace for our political leaders, here and abroad.

I salute the folks of Palm Springs in their vision to elect an all LGBTQ council even as the mayor insists it’s not an issue.

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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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