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A Woman of Many Firsts: Tammy Baldwin

Despite the hurdles LGBT+ persons have faced and continue to face in American society and elsewhere, Tammy Baldwin was able to break a glass ceiling in her home state as an openly lesbian woman. Baldwin, born Tammy Suzanne Green Baldwin, grew up in Wisconsin and attended Smith College where she earned her bachelor’s degree. From there, Baldwin attended the University of Wisconsin Law School where she earned her Juris Doctorate degree. Baldwin went into private practice but soon entered the world of politics where she boldly represents the Democratic Party.

Since Baldwin was elected to serve a member of the Board of Supervisors in Dane County, Wisconsin in 1986, she has constantly been working to represent her fellow Wisconsinites and country. In 1993, Baldwin was elected to be a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and from 1999 to 2013, Baldwin served as a U.S. representative from Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District.

In 2012, Tammy Baldwin won the Wisconsin congressional election. Her position was one of many firsts for Wisconsin and the United States. Baldwin became the first woman elected to Congress in Wisconsin, first openly gay person elected to the House of Representatives and the first openly gay woman elected to Congress. Baldwin was also reelected into the United States Senate in 2018.

“For the LGBT person growing up in Wisconsin or anywhere across the country, seeing an openly gay woman who is able to rise up to become a senator in the U.S. Congress is an incredible role model,” Chad Griffin, a political strategist and president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in response to Baldwin’s election win.

Back in 2006, a majority of the citizens of Wisconsin voted for and passed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage. This effort was to hopefully stunt the work of activists pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage. While one would infer that the state’s voting history would have stirred up trouble during Baldwin’s campaign, voters in Wisconsin did not let prejudice interfere in their decision as much as expected.

While campaigning for her second term in the House, Baldwin faced a lot of backlash from Conservatives who wanted her out of office. Millions of dollars were spent by the outside Conservative groups in the campaign against Tammy Baldwin. Many Republicans wanted Baldwin out of office, but they were ultimately unsuccessful as Baldwin secured her reelection as Wisconsin’s representative in the House.

During her time in the House of Representatives, Baldwin has served on many committees including the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Special Committee on Aging, Budget Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Appropriations Committee.

Baldwin has also made some career-defining votes in the House. She voted nay on “Brett M. Kavanaugh, of Maryland, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States” and an immigration reform proposal by the Trump administration. She was one of the many representatives who chose to not vote on the joint resolution recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.

Alongside Tammy Baldwin, Krysten Sinema became the first openly bisexual Senator whose term started in 2019. Jared Polis, elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and started his term in 2019, became the first same-sex parent in Congress. In 2013, Mark Takano began his term in the House and became the first openly gay person of color in Congress. Following Takano, Sharice Davids became the first openly lesbian woman of color elected to Congress. In recent years, there has been a number of other members of openly gay and lesbian representatives in Congress who have been elected.

With the increasing diversity in the United States government, it can be expected that the representation of the American public will continue to widen across all social groups. In doing so, a more inclusive higher authority will become the voice for millions in the free world. While there is still much homophobia in the world and in the United States, people like Baldwin are leading the way in creating a more tolerant and accepting society.

“Having a seat at the table matters and I think we will see a Senate that is more reflective of America. We’re certainly not there yet, but this will be a change that moves us forward,” Baldwin said. Despite any turmoil she has endured through her career due to being openly lesbian, Baldwin has made strides in keeping her promise to make a positive difference in this country.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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