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Sean Maloney elected first openly gay NY Congressman; sexuality was a non-issue
On Tuesday night, Sean Patrick Maloney defeated Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth to become the first openly gay candidate elected to represent New York in Congress, but practically no one noticed that aspect of Maloney's victory, as his sexual orientation was strictly a nonissue during the campaign.
Maloney -- a former aide to President Bill Clinton -- unseated Hayworth in New York's 18th District in a major political upset. The redrawn 18th includes Putnam and Orange counties, parts of Westchester county and the southwest corner of Dutchess.
The race was heated, with Maloney's campaign describing Hayworth as the lackey of the Tea Party, too conservative to represent the Hudson Valley, while Hayworth called him a carpetbagger from Manhattan.
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Neither talked about sexuality, to any great extent.
Maybe that's because Hayworth has a son who is gay, and she has been an advocate for gay and lesbian rights in Washington. In November, she joined the congressional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Equality Caucus. She is one of six Republicans backing a bill ensuring same-sex partners receive the same federal tax exemptions as heterosexual couples.
News media mentioned that Maloney and his longtime partner, Randy Florke, have three adopted children, but that was about it.
For the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund -- a nationwide group that works to support openly gay candidates -- that is about as much attention as a politician's sexual orientation deserves.
"We are working toward the day that is a nonissue everywhere. We're very happy to see in New York, in this race, it was not used," Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund president, told Newsday.
"None of the candidates we endorse run on the platform of their sexual orientation. Sean is a great example of someone who has been participating in public service his entire life and that experience will make him a great representative," Wolfe said.
In Westchester, the county's only openly gay mayor, Bill Hanauer, easily won a fourth term as leader of the Village of Ossining. Hanauer, who married his longtime partner in June, garnered more than three times the votes received by his challenger.
Tuesday's election saw strides for equal rights nationwide. In Maine and Maryland, voters approved ballot initiatives to begin allowing same-sex unions. A similar measure was close to passing in Washington as of Wednesday afternoon. But Minnesota voters rejected the gay marriage ban on their ballot. Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate. Baldwin had previously made history as the first openly gay nonincumbent candidate to be elected to Congress. Maloney is the second.
Maloney was exultant in victory.
"I'm headed to Congress fired up and ready to help make this country a place where the words 'equality' and 'opportunity' carry serious weight," he said in an email the morning after.