A total of nine House representatives and two senators who identify as LGBTQ have now been elected to the legislature. In a major step forward for LGBTQ rights, two New Yorkers became the first gay black men elected to Congress in the poll on Tuesday. Democrats Ritchie Torres, from the Bronx, and Mondaire Jones, from a New York City suburb, won seats in the House of Representatives.
‘A wise person once said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re probably on the menu,”’ Mr Torres told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. ‘With Mondaire Jones and I, LGBTQ people of colour will have a seat at one of the most powerful tables, the United States Congress.’ Their election came as a liberal ‘blue wave’ that had been predicted by some pundits failed to materialise. Republicans have retained control of the U.S. Senate at least until run-off elections take place in Georgia in January. They also chipped away at the Democratic majority in the House, gaining five seats. ‘Overall it’s a disappointment,’ said Torres, who said he was hoping for a Democratic sweep of the presidency, Senate and House. ‘Instead, we are likely to have divided government that could result in more gridlock,’ he said.
Six of the seven LGBTQ incumbents up for re-election won in their respective races. They were David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Angie Craig of Minnesota, Mark Takano of California and Sharice Davids of Kansas. The seventh incumbent, Sean Maloney of New York, is leading his Republican opponent Chele Farley by nearly three percentage points with 87% of votes in. The two LGBTQ senators, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, were not up for re-election. Both Mr Jones and Mr Torres said they worried a divided Congress would block measures to advance LGBTQ rights such as the Equality Act, which would add sexual and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin.
The House approved the measure in 2019, but the legislation stalled in the Senate. President-Elect Joe Biden has promised to make it a priority. LGBTQ candidates won in their local elections as well, including Sarah McBride who will become the first transgender state senator in US history after winning in Delaware. The landmark victories came not only in blue but also red states such as Tennessee, where Republican Eddie Mannis, who is gay, and Democrat Torrey Harris, who identifies as bisexual, won seats in the state House to become the first openly LGBTQ members of that legislature.
According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which recruits and supports LGBTQ candidates, that leaves only Alaska, Louisiana and Mississippi as states that have never elected an LGBTQ legislator. Two other Democrats became the first transgender people to win seats in their states’ Houses: Taylor Small in Vermont and Stephanie Byers in Kansas. Before Tuesday’s election, there were four other transgender lawmakers in state legislatures nationwide, according to the Victory Fund.