Cal Anderson becomes Washington's first openly gay legislator on November 9, 1987.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 3/13/2003
  • Essay 5407
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On November 9, 1987, Democrat Calvin B. "Cal" Anderson (1948-1995) becomes Washington state's first openly gay legislator when the King County Council appoints him to a vacant seat in the House of Representatives from Seattle's 43rd District. Anderson will go on to win election to the House from the 43rd District. In 1994, he will win election to the Washington State Senate.

Anderson was a Democratic activist and an aide to Seattle City Council Member George Benson and to Mayor Charles Royer. He was a decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army in Vietnam and called himself, "a Democrat who happens to be gay" (The Seattle Times). In the legislature Anderson backed gay rights legislation and battled initiatives that would discriminate against gays. He also worked for campaign finance reform, easier voter registration, and open access to government documents.

Cal Anderson died on August 4, 1995, of an illness related to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). On April 19, 2003, Cal Anderson Park, on Seattle's Capitol Hill, was named and dedicated in his honor, along with the park's new structure, the Cal Anderson Shelterhouse. On September 24, 2005, the community celebrated the grand re-opening of the park.


Dick Clever, "County Council OK's Anderson As 43rd District Representative," The Seattle Times, November 10, 1987, p. G-3; Carole Beers, "Cal Anderson, Legislator Dies," Ibid., August 5, 1995, p. A-1; Michael Paulson, "Anderson Recalled As Fighter, Wit, Diplomat," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 11, 1995, p. B-1.
Note: This essay was updated on January 12, 2006.

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