It Turns Out We May Have Already Had America’s First Gay President

In 2008, America elected its first black president. It almost elected its first female president in 2016.

Past leaders have come from different careers, regions of the country, and religious backgrounds. In terms of sexual orientation, though, we have yet to see diversity — or have we? The fifteenth president of the United States, James Buchanan, may have been America’s first gay president.

James Buchanan never married

Buchanan never married. | CBS Sunday Morning via YouTube

To date, Buchanan is the only U.S. president to remain a bachelor, not just throughout his time as president, but for the entirety of his life.

He began his political career at 23 when he joined the U.S. House of Representatives and appeared to prioritize his focus on his career instead of establishing long-term romantic relationships. At least, that’s what we thought.

Next: There may be proof that Buchanan was actually America’s first gay president.

Buchanan had a close relationship with another politician

Vice President William R. King

Vice President William R. King | Wikimedia Commons

It’s well-known that Buchanan vowed never to marry due to his failed engagement to a woman. She accused him of cheating on her, and died not long after breaking ties with him.

The former president’s relationship with William Rufus King — first a senator, then a vice president — may explain further why he never married. Many believe the two were close enough to be considered lovers, even if that theory has never been officially confirmed.

Next: They weren’t very good at keeping secrets.

Their relationship was not a well-kept secret

Buchanan and King were discreet, but there were rumors. |  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The two weren’t necessarily open about their sexual orientation — not many would have been at the time, at least compared to today. However, other members of Congress likely knew their relationship was more than strictly platonic.

Next: Will America ever knowingly elect a gay president?

Over 70% of Americans say they wouldn’t mind a gay president

a line of white voting booths with American flags on them

America may be ready for an openly gay president. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

A 2015 Gallup poll of 1,527 U.S. adults collected data regarding which qualities might determine who they would or would not vote for in a presidential election.

The poll found that 92% of those surveyed would vote for a woman, 92% would vote for a black candidate, 58% would vote for an atheist, and 74% would vote for a candidate who identified as gay or lesbian.

Next: Other well-known U.S. presidents might have had romantic relationships with men.

Is Buchanan the only rumored gay U.S. president?

White House in Washington D C From front lawn view

Have there been other gay presidents? | hanusst/iStock/Getty Images

Though most Americans today say they’d vote for a presidential candidate regardless of their sexual orientation, it’s unclear whether voters from decades past would have willingly elected their leaders if they’d speculated the same possibilities.

It’s possible that John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Bill Clinton all had male lovers at some point, though, as is the case with Buchanan, we’ll likely never know for certain.

Next: The world has elected several LGBT world leaders.

Other countries with openly LGBT leaders

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar is the openly gay Taoiseach of Ireland | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The U.S. has yet to officially elect an openly gay leader, but the same can’t be said for many other countries around the world.

In 2009. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became Iceland’s first female prime minister — as well as the first openly gay head of government around the globe. In 2017, Ireland elected its first gay prime minister, who also happened to be its youngest leader — and its first PM from an ethnic minority (his parents were Indian immigrants).

Next: U.S. leaders have become more diverse than ever.

Still, we’ve made a lot of progress

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as First Lady Michelle Obama looks on du

The election of Barack Obama proved that we have become a more tolerant country. | UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

In 2008, America elected Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. If Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election, she would have been the nation’s first female president — and the first to serve alongside a “first gentleman.” We’ve come a long way — and still have quite a long way to go.

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