On this date ELAINE NOBLE became the first openly Gay or Lesbian individual to be elected to a state legislature when she was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
In 1974, Noble was elected to the state House of Representatives with 59% of the vote. She has described the campaign as “very ugly,” including “shooting through my windows, destroying my car, breaking windows at my campaign headquarters, [and] serious harassment.” Her election made her the first openly LGBT candidate elected to a state-level office in the United States. She was sworn into office on New Year’s Day 1975 by governor Michael Dukakis.
As an educator, Noble supported desegregation of Boston public schools. She encouraged her campaigners to oversee school pick-ups and drop-offs for children in her district. She was the only white member of the Boston delegation that rode school busses with the children. Her support angered her constituents, both conservative as well as gay and lesbian, who expected her to focus solely on gay and lesbian issues. Her house was vandalized and she was threatened with a gun. She also felt burdened and frustrated by the demands of gay men and lesbians who seemed to expect that she speak for all of them. She said, “The gay community expected me to be on call 24 hours a day. It was like they felt they owned me.”
Noble was an early critic of Father Paul Shanley, a Catholic priest who was ultimately convicted of sex crimes in 2005. She reported Shanley’s comments and behavior to Boston officials on several occasions in the 1970s to no avail. Noble was re-elected in 1976 with almost 90% of the vote, and her second two-year term started on January 1, 1977.
In March 1977, Noble was part of the first delegation of gay men and lesbians invited to the White House under President Jimmy Carter to discuss issues important to the LGBT community.
After leaving Mayor White’s office, Noble established Noble Consulting, a healthcare consulting group. In 1986, Noble and Ellen Ratner formed a LGBT alcohol and drug treatment center in Minneapolis called the Pride Institute. She attempted to establish a similar center in Massachusetts, but was rebuffed by local government. Noble ran unsuccessfully for the Cambridge, Massachusetts city council in 1991 and 1993. In her 1991 campaign, she expressed support for rent control policies, a domestic partnership ordinance, and direct election of the city’s mayor. Noble also ran on fiscal responsibility at the city-level, offering ideas for cutting spending without raising taxes or cutting funding to essential services.
Noble had a relationship with writer Rita Mae Brown in the 1970s and has since retained privacy regarding her personal life. She lives in Florida.