Cambridge, Massachusetts former mayor E. Denise Simmons was the first lesbian, African-American mayor in United States history. Adding to the landmark appointment was the fact that Simmons won the seat unanimously. Her term lasted from 2008-2009.
Simmons made the following statement following her election:
“Just like being a Cantabrigian, a grandmother, a Justice of the Peace, a small business owner, and Mayor, being gay is part of who I am. I live in a city where my friends, family and colleagues just know me as Denise, not as the first African American lesbian mayor. One of the main reasons that public service has drawn me is that I believe in fairness and equality for all people, whether they are gay or straight, African American or of another background, women or men. Equity and access to services and opportunities is what raises all of us to a higher quality of life. I started the GLBT Commission in Cambridge for that reason, to engage the broader community in policy issues that would make Cambridge a better place to live and work for gay individuals and families. I’m proud of the progress the Commission has made. All of my work centers around civic engagement – I truly believe that is how the strongest communities are built, on the vision, involvement and actions of their citizens. Although being a lesbian is not something that defines my work, I realize that this is a great step for the GLBT community and I am truly honored to have this opportunity to be a leader.”
Simmons holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a Master’s degree in Psychotherapy from Antioch College. Her work in the Cambridge school system is notable and revered. After serving 12 years as the Executive Director of the Civic Unity Committee (a city-funded citizen rights organization), she earned a spot on the Cambridge School Committee in 1992. Her powerful work of expanding diversity throughout the school system helped propel her further into the community-driven goal of inclusion.
After winning a seat on the city council in 2001, Simmons utilized her successes to further the civil rights movement on behalf of the African American and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. In 2004, three years into her service, Cambridge City Hall became the first municipality to recognize and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
* Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff originally published at Boston.com