The Victory Institute celebrated Pride month with its 2019 Out for America report and news that the most LGBTQ elected officials in history are now in office.
As Mayor Pete Buttigieg stands on the presidential debate stage as the first openly gay presidential candidate, across the U.S., 698 LGBTQ officials represent the people.
More than 300 LGBTQ candidates were elected in a “Rainbow Wave” during the 2018 midterms. Now 10 members of Congress, 147 state legislators, 34 mayors and 394 other local officials are openly LGBTQ and in office.
Among those elected are the first out Native American lesbian, Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and the first openly bisexual member of the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Colorado elected the first out gay governor, Jared Polis and Oregon its first bisexual governor, Kate Brown. And as PGN reported in April, Chicago elected its first black woman mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is also an out lesbian.
Brown made news last week when GOP lawmakers fled the state rather than vote on her proposed climate crisis initiatives. Brown sent state police after the legislators and fined them each $500 a day for disrupting the legislative session.
Sinema won one of the most highly contested races in the country during the midterms, and is also the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Arizona in 25 years.
According to the Victory Institute, which tracks openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials, this marks an increase of nearly 25 percent over last year. In the 2018 Out for America report, there were 559 out LGBTQ officials.
In an interview with NBC News, Annise Parker, Victory Institute President and CEO, said several factors contributed to the new numbers. “Some of it is that more out people are running, some of it is that more out people are getting elected, and then more people who are in office are coming out,” said Parker, the former mayor of Houston. “So it’s becoming much more acceptable, so the numbers are going up every day.”
But as critically important as these numbers are toward achieving representation for the estimated 20 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ, Victory Institute acknowledges it will take time and more candidates running and coming out to achieve equality and equity. Those 698 out LGBTQ elected officials comprise a mere 0.13 percent of the close to 520,000 elected officials nationwide . Studies suggest LGBTQ people are between 4.5 and 9.5 percent of the population.
“Although great strides were made in the past year,” the report stated, “LGBTQ people of color, bisexual, transgender and queer people and LGBTQ cisgender women are still severely underrepresented among LGBTQ elected officials. Diversifying the pipeline of upcoming LGBTQ leaders must remain a priority in the effort to elect the 22,688 LGBTQ people necessary to achieve equitable representation for the community as a whole.”
Among the crucial changes in representation in the report was the increase in elected Black and Latinx officials. The number of Black LGBTQ elected officials rose from 30 to 43, Latino\x LGBTQ officials rose from 58 to 74. Another significant rise was in transgender elected officials, which increased from 13 to 20.
Parker asserts that only further representation can counter the anti-LGBTQ bias of the Trump administration and said in a statement that there are political consequences to “having a seat at the table.”
In 2019, President Trump has appointed anti-LGBTQ judges, banned transgender Americans from the military, supported businesses’ rights to deny services to LGBTQ patrons if they cite religious objections and affirmed that healthcare providers could discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Last week E & E News, an online news organization that covers energy and environmental policy, markets and science, published leaked emails showing Trump administration officials upset that rainbow Pride flags were on federal land outside the Stonewall Inn, which is a designated historic landmark. U.S. embassies were also banned from flying rainbow flags.
In a statement from the Out for America survey, Parker said, “It is time for our first trans member of Congress, our first LGBTQ governor of color, and our first LGBTQ American president.” She called for LGBTQ people to be elected “to every school board, to every city council and to every state legislature.”