History was made January 10, when Susan Allen, a Minnesota Democrat, won a special general election to the Minnesota State House with 56 percent of the vote. Allen becomes the first American Indian lesbian elected to a state legislature.

Susan Allen Becomes First American Indian Lesbian Elected to a State Legislature

Vincent Schilling

Minnesota Democrat Susan Allen made history January 10 as the first Native American Lesbian to be elected to a U.S. State legislature. During a special general election to the Minnesota State House, Allen defeated her opponent Nathan Blumenshine with 56 percent of the vote to fill the vacated seat of now Senator Jeff Hayden.

The morning after the election, Allen said she wanted to dive into legislative work and her early priorities were to bring jobs and job training to her district and work on a fair tax system for Minnesota. As an openly gay legislator, Allen also said she would begin her fight against the discriminatory constitutional marriage amendment.

On her website, Allen states, “I am a passionate supporter of marriage equality. As a lesbian, I feel this inequality every day. I will use my position as State Rep to speak loudly against the marriage amendment and in favor of equality for all Minnesota families. I will also use my 2012 reelection campaign as a vehicle to turn out voters against writing discrimination into our state constitution.”

When speaking to Indian Country Today Media Network, Allen said, “This is a big win as an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) candidate, for communities of color and especially for the American Indian community. I felt that this is important to be running as an out, lesbian, Native American. It is interesting that some publications for Native Americans they are reluctant to print that. I think that this is something that we're struggling with in minority communities. I think it is really important to start talking about that and to have some sort of healing process.”

“This is also a big win for an American Indian candidate. It can be done,” she said. “It was a longshot and I think a lot of people are surprised that I won. To win in the district I won in, there is a 52 percent minority base but they don't traditionally vote. I was basically elected by white voters. There are a large percentage of Somali voters as well. They are new citizens and they participate in politics. We got the Somali vote 2-1.”

Allen, whose parents come from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations and is no stranger to economic hardship will represent district 61B in Minneapolis, a district where almost half the children live in poverty. When interviewed in MPR News she said, “It reminds me of a lot of the places I grew up."

“In our district there are close to 700 to 800 Native American people living here,” said Allen.” In the district right next to me 61A there are almost 3,000 American Indians in the city.” On Facebook, Allen says she chose to run for the House Seat in district 61B, “because I firmly believe that all members of our community have a stake in the success of our neighborhoods.”

“Powderhorn Park neighborhood in District 61B has been my home for 14 of my 48 years. I raised my son here and it’s here that I’m watching my three grandchildren grow. I grew up in poverty with many challenges, made it through law school with the support of my family and became a lawyer so that I could fight for economic and social justice for those who most need an advocate. I know what it’s like to feel left out of the process.”

Allen will hold her position for 11 months before running again for the 2012 seat in November. At this point in her political career, Allen has received endorsements from the influential Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

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