A recent editorial in The New York Times describes a former United States senator's experience falling in love with a man after his wife's death—and it echoes a small, yet important sentiment in the landscape of American politics.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford announced his upcoming marriage to a man 50 years his junior, whom he met a few years after his wife's passing. Wofford said he does not label himself based on the people he loves, but his story relates to many in the LGBTQ+ community. At a time when LGBTQ+ issues are dominating headlines about gender-neutral bathrooms and discriminatory North Carolina legislation, it is refreshing to see stories of politicians coming out in acceptance of diversity in the face of prejudice and intolerance.
The controversy over North Carolina's discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ policies—in addition to the recent comments by a North Carolina senator claiming the state needs to “stay straight”—is exhausting and frustrating for many on the other side of the debate. With the legalization of same-sex marriage in June 2015—which Wofford said he thought would be impossible to accomplish in his lifetime—comes the inevitable backlash from more conservative perspectives.
There have been many LGBTQ+ politicians in American politics and history—especially on the left-wing side—but the inclusion of diverse identities in politics seems more important than ever, as our country faces increasing pressure to adhere to more restrictive and traditional “values” and policies. In the current election season, most Republican presidential candidates have established anti-LGBTQ+ platforms that unfortunately attract a large population of conservative voters.
Wofford's piece is optimistic about the country's future, despite growing right-wing concern over reverting back to traditional American values that would make the country “great again.” Our college-aged generation has a potentially strong influence on the current election, and with ideas of acceptance and diversity in our minds, the tolerant future Wofford did not believe he would live to see will win over the hate and ignorance our country currently faces.