Sunday, November 05, 2017

Today in 1974: Elaine Noble First Openly Gay Person Elected to a State Legislature

On this day, November 5, in 1974, Elaine Noble became the first openly lesbian or gay candidate elected to a U.S. state legislature. She served two terms as representative for the Fenway-Kenmore and Back Bay neighborhoods of Boston, Mass.

She was elected to the state House of Representatives with 59 percent of the vote. She has described the campaign as "very ugly:" it included her windows being shot in, her car being destroyed, her campaign headquarters having their windows broken and her supporters suffering serious harassment. 

Nevertheless, she was successful and was sworn into office on New Year's Day 1975 by governor Michael Dukakis. Her election made her the first openly LGBT candidate elected to a state-level office in the United States; the second, after Kathy Kozachenko, to be elected to office; and the third openly LGBT elected official overall (Kozachenko's predecessors, Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck, having come out while in office but not publicly known to be lesbian and gay at the time they were elected).

When asked how her colleagues treated her she responded, 
"A lot of harassment at first. But then they saw I was serious. It was ugly too; I had to deal with human feces left in my desk and a lot of obscene profanities. I just tried to maintain with what level of dignity that I could."
In March 1977, she was part of the first delegation of gay men and lesbians invited to the White House under President Jimmy Carter to discuss issues important to the LGBT community. 

In 1986 Noble and Ellen Ratner formed a LGBT alcohol and drug treatment center in Minneapolis called the Pride Institute. More recently she has worked as a healthcare administrator and a realtor.

In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month.

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