Friday, 25 August 2017

Chain Males : Part 3 - USA

Of all the lgbt holders of the mayoral chain of office, either openly of not, the nation which has had the most is the USA. Of the 69 known lgbt American mayors 60 have been male. The map below shows the geographical locations by state.
As you can see not all states have had an openly lgbt male mayor. As with previous “Chain-Male” articles the office of mayor varies from place to place in the method of appointment. Some are directly elected by the citizens, some by their fellow elected representatives, and some according to seniority (usually based on length of service). The length of the terms of office they hold varies as well. What unites them all is that they were directly elected to their respective municipalities.

To complicate matters some of the towns and boroughs in New England states don’t have mayors but offices called First Selectman or Borough Warden who carry out much the same function of a mayor. They originate in the form of community government established during the colonial era. I haven’t begun in depth research into the offices of First Selectmen or Borough Warden and gave only identified one lgbt holder of either office. His name is Clay Cope and he is the current (2017) First Selectman of Sherman, Connecticut.

The earliest gay male mayor, also the first openly gay mayor, in the USA was Richard Heyman (1935-1994). He was elected Mayor of Key West, Florida, in 1979 and held office for ten years.

West Hollywood, California, provides several mayoral records. First of all the current mayor, John Heilman, holds the record as the longest serving openly gay elected in the USA. He was elected to the West Hollywood city council when it was created in 1984. A year later he became its second mayor. After 30 years he failed to be re-elected in 2015 but regained a place on the council a few months later in a special election. Today he is West Hollywood’s mayor again, the 8th time he has held the post, and is another lgbt world record for an elected official.

West Hollywood can lay claim to have the gayest municipal council ever (if we disregard the short-lived Stoke-on-Trent council in England which only ever had 2 mayors, both of them openly gay men – more about them in December). The West Hollywood council created in 1984 consists of 5 publicly elected members whose terms of office last for 4 years. They select one of their number to serve as mayor for one year on a rota basis. The first election for the 5-person council in 1984 had 40 candidates, of which 19 were openly gay or lesbian. Such openness has continued to be present on the council. West Hollywood cries out for more in-depth research and analysis, something I don’t have the time to do.

Other than West Hollywood only one other US municipality has had two consecutive openly gay male mayors. In 2007 Craig Davis became the first openly gay mayor in Michigan when he became Mayor of Ferndale. He was succeeded by David Coulter, also openly gay.

In my next Chain male article in October we’ll cross the Atlantic and look at the gay male mayors in Europe.

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