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Historic times for LGBT politics

Just a month after California Assemblymember John A. Perez made history as the first openly gay lawmaker to be elected Speaker of the Assembly, Rhode Island has its first black and openly gay House Speaker after Thursday’s milestone election of Gordon D. Fox.

Fox, 48, was overwhelmingly elected with 51 votes in the House, with the other 19 votes going to two other candidates for the powerful position in state government.

The Providence Democrat is the 222nd House Speaker since Rhode Island became a colony more than 300 years ago. He immediately took office after being sworn in Thursday. Perez, on the other hand, won’t take over as Assembly Speaker until March 1.

Fox, who has been in the House since 1993, is a lawyer. He has said that he is in a long-term relationship, though the couple are not officially married.

As Speaker, Fox will likely face the volatile issue of same-sex marriage. Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S., is the only New England state that does not allow gay marriage.

"We should have equal marriage rights in Rhode Island,” Fox told reporters.

“That would definitely be something on a personal level I would like to see."

In his first speech to his colleagues on Thursday, Fox talked about the importance of bolstering the economy, creating jobs and balancing the state budget.

Although Fox identifies himself as black, he is the biracial son of an Irish father and a Cape Verdean mother. He grew up on the east side of Providence. Fox is a graduate of Providence College, Rhode Island College and Northeastern Law School.

Ken Williams can be reached at ken@sdgln.com or by calling (877) 727-5446, Extension 713.