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Tammy Baldwin makes history as first openly gay person elected to US Senate

Tammy Baldwin makes history as first openly gay person elected to US Senate

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin made history Tuesday (6 November) by becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to the US Senate.

Baldwin, who has represented Wisconsin in the US House of Representatives for seven terms, defeated Republican Tommy Thompson who is opposed to gay marriage. She replaces retiring Democrat Herb Kohl in the Senate.

‘I am honored and humbled and grateful, and I am ready to get to work – ready to stand with Barack Obama, and ready to fight for Wisconsin’s middle class,’ Baldwin told supporters at her victory party.’

Baldwin, 50, has said her sexuality has not been an issue on the campaign trail because voters in her state care more about such issues as the economy and jobs than their representative’s love life.

But Baldwin has acknowledged the significance of a lesbian being elected to the US Senate. She has gotten used to making history in this regard starting with becoming the first lesbian elected to the Wisconsin Assembly then the first non-incumbent gay person elected to the US House of Representatives.

Baldwin recently told the British paper The Guardian: ‘We never had an openly LGBT member of the US Senate and, even though there are strong pro-equality allies who serve there, it has always been a conversation about a group of people. So this changes everything.’

For fifteen years, her domestic partner was Lauren Azar, until the couple separated in 2010. They had registered as domestic partners in Wisconsin a year earlier.

Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin were among the LGBT leaders enthusiastic about the result.

‘Tonight Tammy Baldwin made history and shone a bright light across America,’ Graddick said in a statement. ‘No longer is the United States Senate a place for only a select few but for every citizen, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Tammy Baldwin’s victory showed what a majority of Americans already know: that candidates should be judged on their qualifications for the job and not their sexual orientation.’

Said Griffin: ‘As the first openly gay person elected to the United States Senate, she is a role model for LGBT youth and all young women across the country. With a relentless focus on the issues that matter most to Wisconsin voters – economic security, access to healthcare, and fairness and inclusion for all – Senator-elect Baldwin earned the respect of all her constituents, gay and straight.’