It’s a photo I never thought I’d see in America’s newspaper of record.
But there it was, on Jan. 25. In the New York Times. On page one. In all its glory.
On the far left stood Speaker of the House John Boehner, his right hand raised to swear into office a new member of Congress. On the far right stood incoming Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, his right hand raised as well.
Those two parts of the photo are the same ones we’ve all seen dozens of times before.
What set the photo apart from those that came before it was the person standing between the two men. For in this case, the standard-issue blond wife had been replaced with a non-standard blond man.
The smiling spouse was Randy Florke, Maloney’s partner of 20 years.
Still more ground-breaking figures in the photo were two of the couple’s three children, Essie Maloney Florke and Daley Maloney Florke. (Maloney and Florke’s third child, son Jesus Florke, got trimmed out of the photo in the Times but was, in fact, standing to the right of sister Daley.)
The photo was one of two that accompanied the story reporting that six openly gay or bisexual members—all Democrats—are now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Also mentioned in the article was Tammy Baldwin, who’s making history as the first member of the LGBT community serving in the U.S. Senate.
Pictured in the second photo were all five new representatives. In this shot, Mark Takano from California stood on the far left–he’s the first gay person of color elected to Congress. Next to him were David Cicilline from Rhode Island, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona (she’s the bisexual in the group), Maloney, and Mark Pocan from Wisconsin.
Jared Polis from Colorado wasn’t in the photo because he’s not a new member of Congress, having been sworn in four years ago.
The story quoted Cicilline as saying, “It’s becoming—ever so slowly—more than a novelty to be a gay member of Congress.”
Polis was quoted in the piece, too, recalling that is wasn’t long ago “when it was just Barney and Tammy.” He was talking about the era when Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Baldwin were the only two openly gay or lesbian members of Congress.
“But with six of us,” Polis continued, “it’s hard to keep track. And it’s always going to be assumed that there are gays and lesbians in the room.”
By Rodger Streitmatter
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