Gabriela Santiago-Romero on Detroit City Council Win: 'I'm Still Processing My Emotions and Feeling Overwhelmed With Joy and Pride'

New councilwoman becomes first Latinx out LGBTQ+ woman elected to public office in Michigan

Jason A. Michael

Gabriela Santiago-Romero, a first-generation Mexican American from southwest Detroit, became the first Latinx out LGBTQ+ woman elected to the Detroit City Council Tuesday. The win comes after Santiago-Romero spoke to Pride Source about her run. Before the election, Santiago-Romero expressed how she wanted to help progress Detroit as an LGBTQ+ woman in the exclusive interview. 

"[Being LGBTQ+] is a part of me that I hope is accepted," she explained. "It is who I am."

Santiago-Romero, who will represent District 6, also now holds the distinction of being the first Latinx out LGBTQ+ woman to be elected in the entire state of Michigan, according to the Washington, DC-based LGBTQ  Victory Fund

While initial news reports, including a story in The Advocate, mistakenly identified Santiago-Romero as the first out LGBTQ+ person ever elected to the Council, that distinction, of course, actually goes to Charles Pugh. Pugh won by over 9,000 votes over his closest competitor in 2010. Pugh's victory earned him the position of city council president for more than three years before he left the council amid scandal.

Santiago-Romero has been very active in organizing her Southwest Detroit community. She is currently on leave as the policy and research director for We the People Michigan, a grassroots organization. In addition, she had also worked for Sen. Stephanie Chang on the Hillary Clinton campaign and Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Casteñeda-Lopez when she ran for re-election.

"Gabriela has shattered a lavender ceiling in Detroit and will become the city council's first LGBTQ woman to serve," said Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. "As an LGBTQ Latinx woman and immigrant, her perspective will enrich policy discussions and ensure all people in Detroit are prioritized."

According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, there are currently just 35 out Latinx women serving as elected officials across the country. For her part, Santiago-Romero won with over 70 percent of the vote.

"We proved that progressives can run and win local elections," she said in a Facebook post. "I'm still processing my emotions and feeling overwhelmed with joy and pride… I am excited to take office in January and to fight for the opportunity our resilient community deserves. I'm ready to get to work for Detroit."