As an East Coast transplant living in Arizona, there have been many things to get used to and many of those things have to do with the political landscape. One of the biggest differences was moving from Connecticut, which was one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage, to a state that didn’t even recognize same-sex civil unions. Witnessing the drastic change over the past month to allowing same-sex couples to wed in Arizona was all the more sweet for a Nutmegger like me.
Another aspect of the Arizona political climate I was pleasantly surprised to see when I moved here two years ago was the presence of a certain politician on my first election ballot – Kyrsten Sinema. When my fellow activists shouted from the rooftops (er, Facebook) that Sinema was bisexual, she became my mission in a way; there were few other names on the ballot I recognized, and even fewer who espoused similar political beliefs to my own. Sinema was the only person I rooted for in the election that took place in 2012.
Fortunately (for the state and me) Sinema was voted into office as the representative of Arizona’s 9th congressional district. Digging deeper into her background, I learned that she’d been elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2005, and the Arizona Senate in 2011. This was a woman who was making big moves on multiple levels; as a politician, as a woman and, to the happiness of many, as the first openly bisexual person elected to the United States Congress.
The fact that there has been so much progress within this historically right-leaning state in terms of LGBT+ equality as of late has something to do with Sinema’s efforts over the years. She has campaigned against Proposition 107 (a same-sex marriage ban) and Proposition 102 (an amendment to the AZ constitution that stipulates marriage being valid between one man and one woman only), both unpopular positions to take. Her mere presence in Arizona politics equates to progress.
While she has been criticized by some for not being more open about her bisexuality, I think it speaks to her political acumen that it remains just one of many facets of Sinema as both a person and a politician. Do you really think she would have been re-elected to Congress if she had spoken up louder about being bisexual? I’d venture to guess not. But, she does not deny it and she remains open about her orientation, retaining her status as a pillar of our community. She is making strides in a traditionally male dominated field as not only a woman, but a woman who bucks the sexual majority (or at least the “majority” as much of society still sees it).
I was thrilled to learn of Sinema’s re-election earlier this month and am eager to see how she continues to shape Arizona in the next two years, especially now that she’s additionally been selected as Chief Deputy Whip for the 114th Congress. I expect more work done within the state of Arizona to bolster gun safety laws, as well as protections for the children of illegal immigrants, considering Sinema’s past work on the DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. As someone eager to work across the aisle, Sinema will make strides both in Washington and in her home state, and I am excited to follow her as she does.