There's A New Wave Of LGBTQ+ Candidates Running For Office And They're Slated To Make History
A study from the LGBTQ Victory Institute found a 71% increase in queer elected officials across the United States.
July 22, 2020 at 6:04 pm
On the heels of their primary wins last month, New York politicians Mondaire Jones And Ritchie Torres are set to become the first openly gay Black and Afro-Latino men in Congress in November.
Torres, a 32-year-old Bronx councilmember, declared victory on Wednesday in a hotly contested race for the Democratic candidate for the 15th Congressional District, reports Gothamist. His win was notable because he was considered an underdog in the race against wildly popular frontrunner Rubén Díaz Sr., an openly homophobic councilmember and father of the borough's president.
Torres is no stranger to making history considering he became the borough's first openly gay elected official and was the youngest member of the city council when he won in 2013 at the age of 25, reports Time.
“I would not be here today if it were not for my mother. The South Bronx is full of mothers like mine who have suffered, struggled and sacrificed so we can have a better life. The opportunity to represent the essential workers of this borough and the powerful mothers of the Bronx, would be the culmination of a dream,” Torres said in a statement to Time.
Jones is on track to make history himself after he was declared the winner in the primary race for the 17th Congressional District seat in Westchester and Rockland counties. If he wins the heavily Democratic district in November, he will be the area's first openly gay Black legislator. Like Torres, Jones was an underdog in a race packed with lavishly funded candidates.
“Growing up poor, Black and gay, I would never have imagined that someone like me could run for Congress, let alone be a leading contender for the Democratic nomination. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to inspire people and to change history,” Jones told Time.
“The historic nature of this moment is not lost of me. It’s not just about representation. It’s about what your lived experience brings to policy discussions. Growing up, had I been able to see someone quite like myself in Congress, it would have been direct evidence of the fact that things really do get better. This has been a long time coming — approximately 244 years,” Jones added.
The two wins are part of a larger wave of LGBTQ+ candidates who are now winning more elections than ever in the United States, according to a new study from the LGBTQ Victory Institute.
The organization released its 2020 Out for America report last week, highlighting the new wave of LGBTQ+ candidates who are taking office.
According to the report, there are 843 known openly LGBTQ+ elected officials in the United States, and there has been a 71% increase in queer elected officials since 2019.
"While LGBTQ people are running for office in historic numbers, we remain severely underrepresented at every level of government – and that must change. We know that when LGBTQ people are in elected office and in the halls of power, they change the hearts and minds of their colleagues and it leads to more inclusive legislation," said Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Institute and the former mayor of Houston.
The study found that since the 2019 election season, there has been a 21% increase in LGBTQ+ elected officials and a 35% increase in LGBTQ+ mayors. The number of bisexual elected officials has grown by 53%, and there are now 40% more trans women in office.
The numbers are even starker when compared to the organization's first report, which was released in November 2017.
While the population of LGBTQ+ people is about 4.5% of the adult U.S. population, just 0.17% of political positions are held by members of the community. For the community to achieve true equity, 22,544 more LGBTQ+ people must be voted to the country's 519,682 elected positions, the report said.
Despite the paltry representation, things are showing signs of improvement. Since November 2017, the number of openly LGBTQ+ people elected to office has grown by 88%.
The report even broke it down by position, illustrating which positions had the most, or least, amount of LGBTQ+ representation.
Unfortunately, the higher the position, the less likely it was to be held by a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Just two U.S. senators and two governors are openly LGBTQ+ while only seven of the 435 U.S. representatives identified as such.
As the report moved further into state and city-level positions, the figures were still a mixed bag. There are 46 LGBTQ+ mayors, including well-known Chicago leader Lori Lightfoot, and 509 other local officials. There are 111 judicial officials who identify as LGBTQ+ and just 160 state legislators out of the over 7,000 positions available.
The study notes that the number of people of color, bisexual and transgender elected officials has been increasing at a faster pace than LGBTQ+ white and cisgender elected officials over the past three years.
“Over the past year, LGBTQ elected officials have been on the frontlines — leading efforts to end racism, blocking bills targeting the trans community and passing legislation that moves equality forward for our community. Allies are important, but LGBTQ representation in the halls of power is critical to the success of our movement,” said Institute Vice President Ruben Gonzales.
The demographics among LGBTQ+ candidates are still dominated by gay cisgender men and lesbian cisgender women, but there has been an increase in bisexual candidates and trans elected officials. Nearly 80% of LGBTQ+ candidates are still white, with another 10% coming from the Latinx community and a bit more than 6% coming from the Black community.
Almost all of the country's LGBTQ+ politicians are either Democrats or members of smaller parties. Less than 3% are part of the Republican Party.
Washington, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado and Massachusetts lead the country in the number of LGBTQ+ elected officials at the state level. South Dakota, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alaska, Hawaii, New Jersey and Tennessee have no openly LGBTQ+ state legislators. The majority of these legislators are white gay men and white lesbian women, according to the study.
"State legislatures—the laboratories of democracy—remain both places of opportunity and discrimination for LGBTQ people. Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in hostile state legislatures in recent years, while progressive state legislatures are leading the way in LGBTQ rights and inclusion," the report said.
"Despite elections in only a few state legislatures in November 2019, the number of openly LGBTQ state legislators increased by 9 percent between June 2019 and June 2020," the report added.
Them. noted in an article this week that the 2020 primary cycle has seen a number of LGBTQ+ candidates win their races ahead of November, including people like Rosemary Ketchum and Peyton Rose Michelle as well as Jabari Brisport and Kim Jackson. Additionally, Florida's Michele Rayner Goolsby and Jasmen Rogers-Shaw are running to become the first Black queer women in Florida's State Legislature.
The last two years have been pivotal for LGBTQ+ politicians, with a number of firsts occurring over the past three election cycles.
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay candidate to win a presidential primary or caucus in Iowa earlier this year while Sharice Davids became the first openly LGBTQ+ Native American elected to the U.S. Congress and the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Congress from Kansas when she won in 2019.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema took office in 2019 as well, making her the first openly bisexual person and the second openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the U.S. Senate. Jared Polis became the first openly gay person and second openly LGBTQ+ person elected governor of a U.S. state when he took office last year.