Bruce Kraus became the city’s first openly LGBT elected official when he was voted into City Council in 2007 and he took that title further Jan. 6, when his fellow councilmembers elected him council president.
Kraus won the position in a 7-2 vote, with only past council president Councilwoman Darlene Harris, whom he unseated, and Councilman Ricky Burgess in opposition. Kraus was nominated to the president position by Councilman Corey O’Connor and was unopposed.
In an interview with PGN Tuesday, Kraus said his election speaks to the general environment of acceptance in Pittsburgh.
“I came out in 1972 so my sexual orientation is not something that I lead with because it is such a natural, ongoing part of who I am,” he said. “Pittsburgh has been known as a very diverse and tolerant city. We put sexual orientation as a protected class in housing, employment and public accommodations on the books as far back as 1990. What you are seeing now as terms of an open and out city council president being elected is just the fruit of those labors.”
Kraus, 59, a Democrat, has been heavily involved in civil-rights issues in Pittsburgh and spearheaded the city’s domestic-partner law in 2008.
Last year, he led a measure that requires certain contractors pursuing business with the city to offer benefits for their employees’ domestic partners. The measure, similar to a recent law adopted in Philadelphia, passed unanimously.
Kraus was reelected in 2011 and will face another election next year. Prior to joining Council, he was an interior-design consultant and president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce.
Kraus said openly LGBT elected officials have the ability to demonstrate on a wide scale the need for diversity and acceptance.
“If you remember Harvey Milk’s argument, it was simply, ‘Come out, come out, come out.’ Come out so that people could see we are just like you. We are your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, doctors, lawyers, florists, shopkeepers — you name it. The importance of having openly out people in positions of authority is so that people can see we just function as regular people in everyday society, just as everybody else does.” n