Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

David Cicilline

A year ago David Cicilline (b. 1961) was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in the First Congressional District of Rhode Island. He came to Washington with a long record of public service. He worked as a public defender in the District of Columbia, served four terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives and completed eight years as mayor of Providence.

Cicilline faced daunting challenges as mayor, but he engineered a welcome return to accountability from a corrupt system. Charles Francis, Chairman of the Board of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, stated, "The mayor has been a breath of fresh air. He has brought stability to the city and confidence to city government."

Providence thrived under his administration. The downtown was revitalized, the crime rate declined, and, in 2006, the city earned a grade-A bond rating for the first time since the 1980s.

Among Cicilline's inherited problems was a labor dispute with city firefighters, who had not had a contract since 2001. While the travails with the firefighters' union were an impediment to Cicilline's progress in his political career, his sexual orientation was apparently not a significant factor. Out to his own circle since his days at Brown University, he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in reply to a question from a writer for the Providence Journal-Bulletin in April, 1999. Cicilline stressed that it is vital for GLBT people to have a public presence, stating, "I think it's very important for our community, because the more we stop being invisible and we are represented in important positions where policies are made resources allocated, I think it will be easier for the next generation of [glbt] young people to think about a career in public service." He added that openness is "also an important way to educate the straight community about the important contributions that we can make."

Cicilline recalled meeting an elderly Catholic man who was considering supporting him and even volunteering to work on his campaign but wanted to know what Cicilline's "gay agenda" was. Cicilline's reply was "My gay agenda is government reform, improving neighborhoods, and strengthening schools."

Cicilline called the exchange "a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that gay people have the same dreams and desires as other citizens," adding, "That's why I always ran as a candidate who happens to be gay rather than a gay candidate. During my campaign the gay issue was irrelevant."

Cicilline ran a successful race, winning the U.S. House of Representatives seat by a margin of 51 to 46 percent over his Republican opponent. He joined other out Reps. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, all of whom were reelected last November, as members of the 112th Congress. All four openly gay members of Congress are Democrats. Cicilline is only the third openly gay candidate to be elected to Congress: Baldwin was the first in 1998, followed by Polis in 2008. Other openly gay members, including Frank, the late Rep. Gerry Studds, and former Reps. Jim Kolbe and Steve Gunderson, came out after they had been elected to office.

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