Garcia in pride parade

SERVING PROUDLY. Mayor Robert Garcia walks in last year’s Pride Parade.

Members of Long Beach’s gay and lesbian community long have been active players on the political scene.

The city was one of the first to have an openly gay man serve on the City Council, and now is one of the first large cities to have an openly gay mayor. The Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club long has been an influential endorsement sought by politicians here.

“Over the years, the LBGT community has been well represented by the City Council and strong allies,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “That continues to be the case. As mayor, I continue to work to ensure that everyone in our city is treated equally.”

Garcia and others say that one benchmark of how far the LGBT community has come politically in Long Beach is the fact that it is no longer a factor in races. Garcia did not have to address sexual preference in his 2014 campaign for mayor, and no mention has been made of the fact that Eric Gray is gay during his run for the Second District City Council seat.

“We have equal rights across the board in Long Beach,” Gray said. “We can marry. It definitely is a new time. But we still have those issues (such as transgender rights) to deal with.”

Long Beach Lambda has been part of the city’s political scene since 1977. It was formed in response to an effort to bar gay and lesbian teachers from the classroom. After winning that battle, Lambda worked to elect gay and gay-friendly candidates.

These days, Lambda’s issues tent has gotten even bigger, according to current president Mark Magdaleno. Magdaleno is a field deputy in Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal’s office.

“We’ve really started to expand,” he said. “We’re looking at homeless rights now. It’s about a lot more than gay marriage.”

Magdaleno said the group is hyper-local, focusing on Long Beach races and issues. That has allowed it to have a large impact.

“I remember when the city wasn’t so openly supportive,” he said. “When Suja first did the resolution supporting gay marriage, there were those (on the council) who questioned why we should do that. Now we have a council that is all supportive.”

One of the indicators of how far the LGBT community has come is how Garcia is being judged on his performance as mayor, not as “the gay mayor,” Magdaleno said.

“At times, I forget he (Garcia) is gay,” Magdaleno said. “He’s just the mayor.

Unlike the national group Victory Fund, being gay is not a requirement for endorsement from Lambda — another sign of progress, Magdaleno said. The only requirement is to be a Democrat and to do well in the interview process.

The proof is in the club’s endorsement in the one City Council race still being contested — Lambda opted to not endorse either candidate.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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