Last night — on his birthday, no less — openly gay Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan won the Democratic primary election in the state’s second congressional district. He’ll face off against Republican Chad Lee in November for the seat being vacated by outgoing U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin, his longtime friend and ally who’s running to replace Herb Kohl in the Senate.
The district leans strongly Democratic, meaning that Pocan, who succeeded Baldwin in the Wisconsin Assembly in 1998, is almost certain to win this fall and become only the eighth openly LGBT person ever to serve in the United States House of Representatives.
In a state where it’s not always easy to be openly gay, Mark has been not only out and proud, but front and center as a public face of and outspoken advocate for the LGBT community. For many years, Pocan has taken a prominent role in Wisconsin’s debate about marriage equality, vociferously opposing a marriage discrimination amendment that the state’s voters ultimately passed in 2006. In 2009, as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, he fought hard for the approval of then-Governor Jim Doyle’s 2010-2011 budget, which included a domestic partnership registry. When that budget passed, Wisconsin became the first state with an existing marriage and civil union ban to legislatively enact domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples; that same year, Fair Wisconsin — the state’s largest LGBT group — honored Pocan with its Statewide Leadership Award for his role in this historic accomplishment. After Tea Party Republicans gained control of the senate, assembly, and the governor’s mansion in 2010, Pocan emerged as a leading opponent of the anti-LGBT agenda pushed by notorious Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Speaking personally and strictly from an LGBT rights standpoint, I’m really excited about the possibility of a Congressman Mark Pocan. He’s a friend whom Michael and I know from our days as a Fair Wisconsin spokescouple. We’ve spoken at rallies with Rep. Pocan, testified in front of his committee, and marched alongside him to protest the toxic bigotry of the National Organization for Marriage. (Coincidentally, Mark married his longtime partner Phil in 2006 in the Toronto City Hall, just a few months after Michael and I married in the very same place.) If, as expected, he defeats Lee in November, America’s LGBT community will gain a valuable advocate and a strong voice for fairness in Congress. And whether you’re a pro-LGBT Democrat or a Log Cabin Republican, I think we can all agree that a victory for equality is a good thing indeed.