SACRAMENTO — As LGBTQ candidates and their supporters celebrated several significant wins across the country in this year’s midterm elections, California quietly achieved its own: at least 10% of its state lawmakers voted publicly identify as LGBTQ, which would be a first for any US legislature.
California lawmakers, all Democrats, are proud of their success, but say it underscores the hard work that remains in their own state and elsewhere, such as handling the fallout from measures such as Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. , which bans some of the lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, or laws in other states limiting transgender student participation in sports or blocking gender-affirming medical care for young people.
That milestone was further obscured by last weekend’s shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado, which killed five people and injured scores more. The suspect has been charged with murder and hate crimes. Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who just won a second term, was the first openly gay man to be elected state governor when he won in 2018.
“When it comes to LGBTQ people, we are on two tracks: the first is that we win societally. Overall, people are very ok with LGBTQ people, they support us, they accept and are ready to vote for LGBTQ candidates,” California State Senator Scott Wiener, a member of the LGBTQ Caucus, said Monday.
Yet, he said, “despite the fact that we are winning the battle in society as a whole, you have a very vocal and dangerous minority of extremists who constantly attack and demonize our community.”
At least 519 LGBTQ candidates have been elected this year, to positions ranging from school board to congress and governor, LGBTQ Victory Fund press secretary Albert Fujii said. That’s a record, well above 2020, when 336 LGBTQ candidates won, according to the group, which along with Equality California calculated that California is the first state to cross the 10% threshold.
Of the 12 current or future members of the California Legislature, eight were already part of its LGBTQ caucus, including the leader of the Senate and three other senators whose term runs until 2024. Four current members of the Assembly were re-elected on November 1. 8, with two new Assembly members and two new Senators joining them, boosting caucus ranks by 50%. The AP has yet to call a remaining race that could add an additional LGBTQ lawmaker.
Lawmakers will be sworn in for their new terms on Dec. 5; between the two chambers, there are 120 legislators in total.
The US Census found that 9.1% of Californians identify as LGBT – compared to 7.9% for the country as a whole – so the legislature will have roughly achieved gender parity. gender identity. Meanwhile, the legislature has yet to achieve gender or race and ethnicity parity, according to statistics from the California State Library.
New Hampshire and Vermont each had more LGBTQ lawmakers, according to the institute, but their legislatures are larger than California’s and therefore did not meet the 10% threshold.
The 2022 election is a landscape of firsts for LGBTQ people, including Corey Jackson, the first gay black man in the California legislature, who noted that African Americans — especially black trans people — are particularly marginalized.
“I think this is a fair opportunity to say number one, we’re here, we have something to contribute and we can lead and represent with the best of them,” said Jackson, a school board member from the Riverside County.
Alaska and South Dakota elected their first LGBTQ lawmakers, and Montana and Minnesota elected their first transgender lawmakers, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In New Hampshire, 26-year-old Democrat James Roesener has become the first trans man elected to a US state legislature.
He said he was motivated to run after a state bill that would have required schools to inform parents about their children’s changing gender identity and expression failed to only narrowly failed. Opponents of these requirements say they invade children’s privacy and can put them at risk of abuse at home.
Leigh Finke, who was elected in Minnesota, has also been motivated by growing anti-transgender rhetoric.
Finke hopes to ban so-called conversion therapy in Minnesota and, like California, make the state a sanctuary for children and their parents, who cannot access gender-affirming health care elsewhere.
“I just thought, ‘This can’t stand.’ We need to have trans people in these rooms. If we’re going to lose our rights, at least they need to look us in the eye when they do it,” she said.
Massachusetts and Oregon elected the nation’s first lesbian governesses.
Charlotte Perri, a 23-year-old vote organizer in Portland, Oregon, said she was moved to hear Governor-elect Tina Kotek speak at a youth campaign event thanking her for showing up.
“It’s hard to feel optimistic as a queer youth with all that’s going on,” Perri said.
Although newly elected LGBTQ officials are overwhelmingly Democrats, at least one gay Republican – George Santos, a supporter of former President Donald Trump – won a US House seat in New York by beating another gay man. , a Democrat.
The rise in the number of LGBTQ lawmakers contrasts with efforts in some states by members of Santos’ party to limit the influence, visibility and rights of LGBTQ people.
In Tennessee, leaders of the state’s Republican legislative supermajority said the first bill of the 2023 session would seek to ban gender-affirming care for minors. Tennessee has one LGTBQ lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Torrey Harris.
The state has already banned transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports in middle and high school and restricted which restrooms transgender students and employees can use.
The Human Rights Campaign has tracked what it identified as anti-LGTBQ bills introduced in 23 states this year and said they have become law in 13: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee. , Utah and Louisiana.
In contrast, “as California’s LGBTQ Legislative Caucus has grown, the state has led the country in passing groundbreaking legislation protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people,” said Equality California spokesperson Samuel Garrett Pate.
Wiener carried California’s sanctuary bill for transgender youth, which was copied by Democratic lawmakers in other states. He and another Assemblyman teamed up in 2019 to expand access to HIV prevention drugs. Other laws imposed by LGBTQ lawmakers over the years have given adoptive children the right to gender-affirming care and allowed non-binary gender markers on state identification.