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Massachusetts State Representative Carl Sciortino
"Why I became an elected official"
As a citizen, I had always felt it was my responsibility to learn about my elected officials, and to engage with them when I believed my voice needed to be heard. Five years ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the full rights, benefits, and responsibilities of the institution of civil marriage. Immediately, there was an attempt to amend the state constitution to block the issuance of marriage certificates. Thus began my journey seeking elected office.
Like many times before, I contacted my legislators to let them know my views, that as a gay member of society, I believed all people should be guaranteed equality, plain and simple. My state representative told me, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way he would he support marriage for “you people.” There had been other issues I had contacted my predecessor about, and I knew we rarely saw eye to eye. But in that instant, sitting face to face with someone who supposedly represented me, I could not accept that my legislator would not only deny equality to his own constituents, but would respond in such a dismissive way.
I have met others in public service, and like them I had not planned my life around running for office. I was working in the public health field, happily doing my part in HIV clinical trials, doing HIV counseling and testing, and managing research studies at a community health center. But civic engagement, community service, and participation in the democratic process were values never far from my mind. So while not planned, it was not difficult to make the leap from dismissed constituent to active challenger.
A little more than a year later, having defeated my representative in the primary by just 93 votes, followed by defeating him again by a two-to-one margin in the general election, where he ran as a write-in candidate, I was sworn in January 5, 2005. And in one of the greatest honors of my life, nine months after being sworn in, I was able to cast a vote against discrimination, preserving marriage equality in Massachusetts. Serving in the legislature, being able to work on issues of social and economic justice, and hearing out the concerns of my own constituents with respect even when we disagree, is something I know I will never take for granted.