Gay Candidates For Congress Draw Interest, Hope - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Gay Candidates For Congress Draw Interest, Hope

WOONSOCKET, R.I. - Laure Rondeau, an 82-year-old Catholic, supports Providence Mayor David Cicilline for Congress because he wants to get the troops out of Afghanistan and says Washington is losing sight of what's happening to regular people.

The sexual orientation of the openly gay mayor doesn't figure into her decision.

"That doesn't bother me at all," Rondeau says. "He's been a good mayor of Providence, and I think he'd do well in Congress."

Just three of the 535 members of Congress are openly gay, but two candidates hope to inch that number up to five this year: Cicilline, who is running to succeed fellow Democrat Patrick Kennedy, and Democrat Steve Pougnet, who's trying to knock Republican Mary Bono Mack out of her seat in California.

The races have drawn intense interest from gay advocacy groups, which are excited about two candidates who could help push for legislation to institute hate crime protections, prevent discrimination and advocate for same-sex marriage rights.

"There are so few people on the Hill who can speak authentically about what these things mean in their own lives," said Denis Dison, spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a group that works to elect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender politicians. "We are vastly underrepresented."

Sexual orientation and gay marriage are not the flashpoints in this midterm election that they have been in the past. There are no statewide ballot measures on gay marriage this November, and polls have shown a growing acceptance of same-sex unions. Five states now allow gay marriage, including Rhode Island's neighbors Massachusetts and Connecticut.

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