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Gay ex-marine Neil Rafferty wins Alabama seat in landslide

Ella Braidwood November 8, 2018
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Ex-marine Neil Rafferty wins a seat in Alabama.

Neil Rafferty, an openly gay former US marine, has won a seat in Alabama with 90 percent of the vote, filling a role vacated by the state’s first LGBT+ legislator Patricia Todd.

Neil Rafferty won the District 54 seat in Alabama with 90 percent of the vote during the US midterm elections, reports regional news website AL.com.

The gay ex-marine beat independent candidate Joseph Casper Baker, who received 10 percent of the vote.

Alabama’s Neil Rafferty: Outspoken on LGBT+ issues

Rafferty announced he would run for a spot in the Alabama State House in February, after Todd said she would not be running for re-election.

Todd caused controversy in May when she attempted to “out” Alabama governor Kay Ivey, who is a Republican.

“Nine days ago, I was approached by a dear friend who asked if I would consider running to fill the vacant seat for Alabama State House District 54,” Neil posted on Facebook at the time.

“In the past week, I’ve spent many hours in conversation with family and friends, but more importantly, I’ve asked myself how can I best serve my community.”

He added: “We are better together. Let’s get to work!”

“Coming out is not an event. It’s a process, a shared experience.”

—Neil Rafferty

Rafferty is a project director at non-profit organisation Birmingham AIDS Outreach.

On Tuesday, Rafferty responded to his election to the seat by updating his cover photo on Facebook with a message that read: “Thank you Birmingham!”

Gay ex-marine Neil Rafferty's Facebook cover photo update.
Neil Rafferty celebrated his win by changing his cover photo on Facebook. (Neil Rafferty/Facebook)

Rafferty is an outspoken supporter of LGBT+ rights.

On October 11, Rafferty marked National Coming Day by writing a lengthy Facebook post about coming out to his family aged 13 and his experience of serving in the marines as a gay man under America’s notorious “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy, which was repealed in 2011.

The gay ex-marine explained that he and his boyfriend, another marine, who he has been with for 14 years, kept a low profile under the policy.

“I am proud and honored to have served my country and my fellow Marines, but without the choice to come out, I was back in the closet,” Rafferty wrote.

“After DADT was repealed, the closet slowly fell away. And I began to use pronouns unambiguously in conversations about relationships.

“Coming out is not an event. It’s a process, a shared experience — frightening, challenging, sometimes painful — that defines us as members of the LGBTQ community. Coming out was the crucible in which my identity and my convictions were forged.”

Making history in the US midterm elections

A number of LGBT+ candidates secured seats during the US midterm elections.

Photo of Sharice Davids, the first openly lesbian and Native American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.
Sharice Davids made history as the first openly lesbian and Native American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. (Whitney Curtis/Getty)

Openly gay candidate JD Ford won the race for Indiana’s Senate District 29, unseating longtime Republican Senator Mike Delph.

Ford is thought to be the first openly LGBT+ legislator in Indiana, the home state of vice-president Mike Pence.

In Kansas, Sharice Davids won a congressional seat, becoming the first openly lesbian and Native American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

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