The Femo: Trailblazing Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin

by Olivia Conetta

On an Election Day momentous for women and gays, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) was elected the first openly gay or lesbian senator in the U.S. She is also the first female senator of Wisconsin. After a challenger-free primary, she won her Senate seat in the general election against former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson with 51.5 percent of the vote.

What’s remarkable about Baldwin’s win is that her sexual orientation was a nonissue, even in a state that legalized a same-sex marriage ban with a 59 percent “yes” vote in 2006. A spokesman for the Victory Fund, which promotes gay candidates, noted in an October Slate article that Baldwin had not received any anti-gay fliers or smears. While she is now famous for being the first openly gay senator, her campaign did not focus on her sexual orientation.

Baldwin’s career in government began with her election to the Dane County Board of Supervisors in 1986, while she was still in law school. From there, the Wisconsin native went on be elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1992. She held her seat in the state government until 1998, when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the House, Baldwin has maintained a liberal record. She and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) established the LGBT Equality Caucus in 2008 as co-chairs. The caucus serves to advance laws that defend LGBT rights and boasts 104 members in the 112th Congress. She is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Baldwin voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, though she preferred a single-payer health care system. In 2002, she voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

Her women’s rights record is stellar. She voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and has supported both the Equal Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act. She also sponsored the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007.

According to CNN, Baldwin said, “Having a seat at the table matters, and I think we will see a Senate that is more reflective of America.”

We can expect Baldwin to continue championing women’s and LGBT initiatives in the Senate.


photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund: