In California, 10 percent of the state legislature identifies as LGBTQ

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — While LGBTQ candidates and their supporters celebrated several historic victories across the country in this year’s midterm electionsCalifornia quietly caught up: At least 10 percent of its state legislators publicly identify as LGBTQ, believed to be a first for any US legislature.

California lawmakers, all Democrats, are proud of their success, but say it underscores the hard work left in their own state and elsewhere, such as managing the fallout from measures like Florida “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits some lessons on sexual orientation and gender identityor laws in other states that limit transgender student participation in sports or block gender-affirming health care for youth.

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The milestone was further wrapped up on Saturday night. shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado, which killed five people and injured many others. The suspect was charged with murder and hate crimes. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who just won a second term, was the first openly gay man elected governor of a state when he won in 2018.

“When it comes to LGBTQ people, we are on two tracks: One track is that socially we are winning. People in general totally agree with LGBTQ people, support us, accept us and are willing to vote for LGBTQ candidates,” California state Senator Scott Wiener, a member of the LGBTQ Caucus, said Monday.

However, he said, “despite the fact that we are winning the battle in society at large, there is a very loud and dangerous minority of extremists who constantly attack and demonize our community.”

At least 519 of the LGBTQ candidates have won elected office this year, in positions ranging from the school board to Congress to 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 percent threshold.

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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 terms run through 2024. Four current members of the Assembly won re-election on February 8. november. , with two new Assembly members and two new senators joining them, increasing the caucus ranks by 50 percent. 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 December 5; between both chambers there are 120 legislators in total.

The US Census found that 9.1 percent of Californians identified as LGBT, compared to 7.9 percent for the nation as a whole, so the Legislature will have reached roughly parity on sexual orientation and gender identity. gender. Meanwhile, the Legislature has yet to reach parity on gender or on race and ethnicity, according to statistics from the California State Library.

New Hampshire and Vermont have each had more LGBTQ legislators, according to the institute, but their legislatures are larger than California’s and therefore have not met the 10 percent threshold.

The 2022 election is a first for LGBTQ people, including Corey Jackson, the first gay black man in the California Legislature, who noted that African Americans, particularly Black trans people, are especially marginalized.

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“I think this is an opportunity to say that first and foremost, we’re here, we have something to contribute, and we can lead and represent the best,” said Jackson, a Riverside County school board member.

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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, Democrat James Roesener, 26, became the first trans man elected to any US state legislature.

He said he was motivated to run after a state bill that would have required schools to notify parents about developments in their children’s gender identity and expression narrowly failed. Opponents of such requirements say they invade children’s privacy and may put them at risk of abuse at home.

Leigh Finke, who was elected in Minnesota, was also buoyed by the 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 be taken.’ We have to have trans people in these rooms. If we are going to lose our rights, they have to at least look us in the eye when they do it,” she said.

Massachusetts and Oregon elected the the country’s first lesbian governors.

Charlotte Perri, a 23-year-old vote organizer in Portland, Oregon, said she was moved to hear Gov.-elect Tina Kotek speak at a youth campaign event thanking her for her candidacy.

“It’s hard to feel optimistic as a young queer person with everything that’s going on,” Perri said.

Although newly elected LGBTQ officials are overwhelmingly Democrat, at least one gay Republican, George Santos, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, won a US House seat in New York by defeating another gay man, a Democrat. .

The rise of LGBTQ legislators contrasts with efforts in some states led by members of Santos’s party to limit the influence, visibility and rights of LGBTQ people.

In Tennessee, leaders of the state’s Republican legislative majority said the first bill of the 2023 session will seek to ban gender-affirming care for minors. Tennessee has one LGBTQ legislator, Democratic Rep. Torrey Harris.

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The state has already banned transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports in middle and high schools and restricted which bathrooms transgender students and employees can use.

The Human Rights Campaign tracked what it identified as anti-LGBTQ bills filed in 23 states this year and said they have signed into law in 13: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Louisiana.

Rather, “as the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus has grown, the state has led the nation in passing groundbreaking legislation that protects LGBTQ+ civil rights,” said Equality California spokesman Samuel Garrett-Pate. .

Wiener approved California’s sanctuary bill for transgender youth, which has been copied by Democratic lawmakers in other states. He and a member of the Assembly teamed up in 2019 to expand access to HIV prevention medications. Other laws pushed by LGBTQ legislators over the years gave foster children the rights to gender-affirming care and allowed non-binary gender markers on state IDs.

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It’s too early to have a solid plan for new legislation, California caucus members said, but Wiener noted that areas to consider include employment resources for transgender people; homelessness and crime among LGBTQ youth at risk; and sexual health services.

Jackson said he found hope in the election results not just in California, but across the country.

“Now we have US senators, now we have governors, now we have trans legislators in this country,” Jackson said. “So, in the midst of hate stories and demonization stories, you still see rainbows of hope across our nation.”