‘Out’ in City Hall: Does it matter?

I recently wrote that, if elected, Steve Hansen would be the first openly gay member of the Sacramento City Council.

A friend objected and told me of another council member who served in the late ’70s, who may actually have been the first person in Sacramento to be “out” while serving in office.

Of course, another friend countered: “It depends on what your definition of ‘out’ is.” This particular council member’s orientation was the “worst kept secret in town” at the time. But back then, gays and lesbians had no protections on the job, and it wasn’t exactly in the papers. He’s since passed away, but it still feels like naming him would be uncool somehow, like outing him. Even posthumously.

There have of course been gay council members since. They’ve chosen to keep it quiet, not mentioned in their campaigns or in reporter’s columns.

Back in 2004, John Boyd ran as an openly gay candidate for District 6. But by then it seemed being gay was no real obstacle. It’s just that the guy who won that election, Kevin McCarty, turned out to be really good at raising money and getting votes.

(It’s ironic that McCarty, who’s probably gets under Mayor Kevin Johnson’s skin more than anyone else on the council, is probably in the safest seat.)

Sexual orientation most likely probably will be a nonissue again as Hansen takes on architect Phyllis Newton and whoever else jumps into the race for District 4.

Which is not to say that it doesn’t matter. After all, the GLBT community, Hansen included, worked really hard to draw a district that meant more political clout for gays and lesbians. For all the drama about redistricting and Oak Park, the unification of downtown and Midtown into District 4 really ought to have been celebrated more than it was.

I have no idea if Hansen will win. He is taking it very seriously. But whenever it happens, having openly gay council members will change some things, though perhaps subtly. For example, would Johnson again put his name on a campaign mailer that also endorsed something as bigoted as Proposition 8—as he did in 2008—and expect to get any cooperation from his gay council colleagues? I haven’t asked him, but I’d like to think Johnson wouldn’t do that again, no matter who’s running.

Compiled from Snog.