LGBTQ+ Victories in the 2020 Election
The 2020 election was full of historic moments. Kamala Harris, by being elected the first Black, Latinx, woman ever in office, set the bar high for politicians following in her footsteps.
However, this year, it was the news that arrived before the results of the Presidential election that made history — specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
The United States has come a long way from when in 1980, Robert Bauman, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Maryland, was outed as being gay while in office. Now, 40 years later, there are proud and openly gay members of Congress, and each year that number continues to grow significantly. Next year, there will be eleven LGBTQ+ members of the 117th Congress– a historically high figure.
In our own back yard, Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres made history on election night as the first openly gay Black members of Congress. Mondaire Jones is now the Democratic U.S. Representative-elect for New York’s 17th congressional district, which includes Rockland and Westchester counties, the suburbs north of New York City. In a tweet, Jones explained how honored he is to serve “the community that just sent an openly gay, Black guy who grew up in Section 8 housing and on food stamps to Congress.”
Ritchie Torres dominated the election in New York’s 15th congressional district, winning 88% of the votes. NY-15, a heavily democratic region containing the South Bronx, is one of the United States’ poorest districts. Torres tweeted after his victory: “It is the honor of a lifetime to represent a borough filled with essential workers who have risked their lives so that New York City could live.”
Sarah McBride, an activist, politician, and now the Delaware State Senator-elect, made history as the highest-ranking transgender official in the United States. She is currently the National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign; an LGBTQ+ focused nonprofit advocacy group. When she was in college, she interned at the White House under the Obama administration, making her the first transgender person to ever work in the White House. She also has a close relationship with Joe Biden, the President-Elect, and his family. She worked as a campaign staffer on Beau Biden’s 2010 campaign and detailed that when she came out as transgender, Beau called her and said, “Sarah, I just wanted you to know, I’m so proud of you. I love you, and you’re still a part of the Biden family.” After her and Joe Biden’s victory on Saturday, November 7th, she mirrored the same sentiments she received from the Biden family in a tweet: “When I came out, Joe Biden told me, “Beau is so proud of you.” Today, Mr. President-elect, Beau is so proud of you. We are all so proud of you.”
The LGBTQ+ community in Oklahoma also had a big victory on election night: Mauree Turner was elected as the first nonbinary lawmaker in US history. Mauree uses she/her and they/them pronouns. They also made history as Oklahoma’s first Muslim elected to the state legislature, and is also Black and queer, which will help diversify Oklahoma’s state legislature. Mauree and their siblings were raised by a single mother and lived off of SNAP benefits while their mother worked three jobs, making them relatable to so many low-income families residing in House District 88. Their father was incarcerated for the majority of their childhood, which was one of the reasons Mauree worked as a field director for Campaign for Smart Justice, a criminal justice reform project before they won the 2020 election.
Because of all of the setbacks that the Trump administration caused for the LGBTQ+ community, these four officials, along with the other seven LGBTQ+ people who will be sworn into office in January of 2021, will have a lot of work to do in order restore the rights of queer people in the United States. While there have been considerable losses, the installment of Amy Coney Barret being one of them, it is clear that diversification of congress and the government, in general, is moving in the right direction. And, as Sarah McBride said on the night of her victory, “We did it. I hope that tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”