City Council member Rue Landau makes LGBTQ history in Philadelphia

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Rue Landau
Rue Landau

I have three simple and powerful words for you: We did it,” said Rue Landau in her victory speech.

Landau won an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council, thereby making history as the first out LGBTQ candidate to win election to the council. Until November, Philadelphia was the last major city to “have never elected an out council member,” said LGBTQ+ Victory Fund in a press release.

She might be the first out elected official in Philadelphia, but Landau is no stranger to working the front lines. Landau started her career as an activist and housing organizer. She fought for economic justice for Philadelphia communities within and beyond the LGBTQ community.

Landau, also a civil-rights attorney, demanded access to affordable housing in Kensington, and provided social services during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She remains an active member of ACT UP, Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU), and Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!).

Upon her win, Landau percolated in the history of the moment.

“I have three simple and powerful words for you: We did it,” Landau said in her victory speech at Cockatoo, a bar and restaurant in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood.

“I am so humbled and honored to announce that I am the first openly LGBTQ person ever elected to Philadelphia City Council. This is a moment of immense pride and joy,” she continued.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund — a nonprofit working to achieve and sustain equality by increasing LGBTQ elected officials in office — endorsed Landau. Victory President and CEO Annise Parker responded to her win with a call for “celebration.”

“Rue’s victory is a cause for celebration for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community, who will be represented in City Hall for the first time. Voters spoke loudly and clearly — Philadelphians want to make progress and they trust Rue to bring their voices to the Council. We’re excited to see Rue take office and get to work making Philadelphia a more equitable city for all,” Parker said in a press release.

The people elected Landau among other historic national elections.

For instance, New Jersey’s Luanne Peterpaul made history last month as the state’s first LGBTQ state legislator. Victory endorsed both elected officials.

However, the two historic wins mark only a few in a landslide.

Rue Landau
Rue Landau

In 2023, over 500 LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office in the United States. According to Victory, that’s almost a 20 percent increase from 2021. Moreover, throughout the country citizens elected 10 history-making “firsts” into office.

This year, Peterpaul and Landau made history along with Danica Roem, the first transgender state senator in the south; Fabian Nelson, Mississippi’s first out LGBTQ state lawmaker; Amelia McMillan, the first out LGBTQ person elected to the Pennsylvania Central York School Board and the youngest; Adele McClure, the first black person and first Asian person elected to the legislature from Arlington County, Va.; Susanna Johnson, the first woman and first out LGBTQ person to serve as the Snohomish County (Wash.) sheriff; Joy Hollingsworth, restoring LGBTQ representation on the Seattle City Council; Rozia Henson, the first out gay black man elected to the Virginia legislature; and Joshua Cole, a champion for equality, in the Virginia legislature.

Today, there are many out LGBTQ elected officials. Yet, Landau remembered a time when there were not any and shared a message for the way forward.

“It’s about our collective journey. It’s about the LGBTQ community, a community that has faced discrimination for far too long. It’s about a city that has been at the forefront in LGBTQ legal protections with a politically active and reliable Democratic voting bloc, but has not been able to get one of us across the finish line until now,” asserted Landau in her victory speech.

Lana Leonard
Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.