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News of the day (a couple of days ago)

Pedro Segarra won the Democratic Primary for Hartford’s Mayoralty this week, pretty much guaranteeing him re-election in November. Take a look at the story in the Courant: Segarra Wins Democratic Mayoral Primary. Seriously, scan through that article by the Courant’s Jenna Carlesso, because what I am writing about is what isn’t in that article. It’s in his official bio and it’s in his campaign site bio—it’s not a secret, it’s just not newsworthy.

Mayor Segarra is gay. And it’s not newsworthy.

In fact, I believe that Pedro Segarra is the first large-city mayor who is in a legal same-sex marriage.

Digression: the phrasing there is terrible, but it’s an awkward sort of record. The colloquial way to phrase it is that Mayor Segarra is the first legally gay-married big-city mayor, but I frankly dislike the gay-married colloquialism. I first typed that Mayor Segarra was the first big-city mayor to be married to a man, but of course that isn’t true, and then rephrased it that he was the first big-city mayor to be a man married to a man, although as far as I know there are no big-city mayors who are women married to women and I wanted to include such marriages and mayors in the category (as they should be). Then I typed that Mayor Segarra was the first big-city mayor to be married to his own sex, which is far worse than what I actually went with up there. Hmph. Suggestions for improving the wording gratefully appreciated, but I guess I need to give up and use gay-married. End Digression.

Anyway, Mayor Segarra advanced to the Mayor’s office last summer, he was already the first openly gay Mayor in the city’s history and one of only a few gay big-city Mayors in the country. The next day, he married his boyfriend, and made history—except that nobody noticed or cared. OK, that’s not true, but it’s surprisingly close to being true. The Mayor of Hartford married his long-term boyfriend, and it wasn’t a scandal, or a controversy, or anything like that. Out here in the suburb, almost a mile from the borderline, I barely noticed. Of course, it was a trifle overshadowed by the previous Mayor being convicted on felony counts, but still, there were articles about the new guy, and I don’t remember anybody making a fuss about him being gay, or about him getting married.

And when you are talking about society and culture, I think there’s a difference between being Mayor and being elected Mayor; there was somewhat of a history of women being appointed to elective office before they were elected to it, which was revealing about the world they were in. Similarly, it was possible (and I suppose still technically is possible) that our city would stand for a gay appointed Mayor in an emergency, but that given an election, would just happen to choose somebody straight. Didn’t happen.

I don’t read the Advocate any more, and I am well out of touch on a lot of gay rights issues. I think I get a lot of the headlines and the most talked-about stories through my network of friends, but of course I don’t know what I am missing, by the nature of it. So I’ll ask GR’s: is Mayor Segarra a gay hero? An icon of political success? If not, why not? Isn’t it newsworthy that all of this isn’t newsworthy?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


It'd be news round about where I live, if it were reported in the news, because it couldn't happen here. That said, as pleasing as the news is (assuming that Mayor Segarra will be a good public servant for the city of Hartford), it doesn't strike me as that important of a landmark, since big cities have already been electing gay men and women to the office of mayor for some time. Mayor Segarra had the opportunity to run for office as a married man because CT legalized gay marriage. That was certainly a big deal, but that a gay man in a same-sex marriage would be elected as mayor in a state in which gay marriage has been legalized doesn't seem like a big deal. It's a landmark of interest, something above the level of trivia, but it doesn't convey heroic stature upon Mayor Segarra or make him an icon of political success. For all I know, he could be both of these things, but if he is, it would not be for this reason. Thus, it doesn't surprise me that his marital status and sexual orientation aren't being treated as big news in CT.

In your discussion of phrasing, are you indicating that gay-married is a colloquial usage in CT and possibly the Northeast? It isn't in the Midwest, so far as I know.

Hmmm… the list at the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute has 29 mayors, but it doesn't include some of the ones that I know about, so my guess is that the actual list could be as high as fifty. So that's clearly part of it. And, yes, Portland (OR) and Houston and even Providence are bigger cities, so that's part of it, too. And I see the idea that there wouldn't be additional obstacles to overcome for a married gay mayoral candidate, unless (as alas is the case here) the spouse happens to be a political liability, which could happen to anyone. And I am really just guessing that Mayor Segarra is the first; a cursory glance at the mayors in MA doesn't contradict that, but a more comprehensive search might.

I guess what I'm on about is that it seems strange (and wonderful) to me that it isn't a big deal. I mean, thinking about thirty years ago—within my recollection—the idea of a man being married to another man seems outlandish, the stuff of a certain kind of wild and decadent imagination simply incompatible with the mayoralty of Hartford, CT.

As for the colloquial usage, I have mostly seen it on-line, but I have seen it on-line a lot, and not always in what I would have considered colloquial contexts. Tax Changes for Gay-Married New Yorkers, that sort of thing.


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