LGBTQ politicians see growing clout in Inland Empire – San Bernardino Sun

“Are you Mark Takano?”

The Riverside congress member, who was back in town last week, said yes.

“I just graduated and I am also a gay Asian person,” Takano quoted the UC Riverside alum who approached him as saying. “And I respect you and I follow your work.”

It’s a far cry from 28 years ago, when pink flyers questioned whether Takano would be a congressman for Riverside or San Francisco.

Today, the Inland Empire is home to a growing number of LGBTQ elected officials who are open and proud of who they are. These members of city councils, the Assembly and Congress welcome the political progress. But, citing the backlash they sometimes face and their still small numbers, say there is much more to accomplish.

“I never get over the fact that I have the opportunity to be the voice and the hope of so many people who are struggling with their LGBTQ identity,” said Takano, a Democrat who in 2012 became the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress.

Local LGBTQ elected leaders include Takano and Assembly Member Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, who took office in 2016 and in 2019 became the first LGBTQ lawmaker in the legislature to give birth while in office. Her sister, first-term Riverside City Council Member Clarissa Cervantes, also is LGBTQ, as is Erin Edwards, who was elected to Riverside’s council in 2019 as its first openly LGBTQ member.

In Redlands, Denise Davis is the city’s first openly LGBTQ council member. She was elected in 2018, the same year Palm Springs swore in the first all-LGBTQ city council in U.S. history.

Palm Springs City Council Member Christy Holstege, who is bisexual, is running for an Inland Assembly seat, while Democrat and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, who is gay, hopes to unseat Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, whose campaign sent the pink flyers when Takano ran against him in 1994. The new congressional district includes parts of western Riverside County and the Coachella Valley.

When Takano ran in 2012, his GOP opponent, then-Supervisor John Tavaglione, never mentioned Takano’s sexuality.

By that point, “so many more gay Americans came out of the closet and it became more common for every family to recognize that they had a gay family member,” Takano said.

“Gay people were not (seen as) evil incarnate,” he said.

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