The California Legislature is now 10% LGBT
While LGBTQ candidates and their supporters celebrated several landmark victories across the country in this year’s midterm elections, California quietly achieved its own: At least 10% of its state legislators publicly identify as to LGBTQ, which is 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 that remains in their own state and elsewhere, including managing the fallout from measures like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law “, which prohibits some lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity, or laws in other states that limit transgender students’ participation in sports or that block gender-affirming medical care for youth.
The milestone was further clouded by Saturday night’s 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, became the first openly gay man elected as governor of a state when he won in 2018.
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“When it comes to LGBTQ people, we’re on two tracks: one is that as a society we’re winning. People in general are totally fine with LGBTQ people, they support us, they accept us and they’re willing to vote for LGBTQ candidates.”, California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a member of the LGBTQ Caucus, said Monday.
However, he said, “while we are winning the battle in society at large, you have a very vocal and dangerous minority of extremists who are constantly attacking and demonizing our community.”
At least 519 LGBTQ candidates won elected office this year, in positions ranging from school board to Congress and governor, LGBTQ Victory Fund press secretary Albert Fujii said. That’s a record, far higher than 2020, when 336 LGBTQ candidates won, according to the group, which along with Equality California calculated that California is the first state to break the 10 percent threshold.
Of the 12 current or future members of the California Legislature, eight were already part of its LGBTQ caucus, including the Senate leader and three other senators whose terms will run through 2024. Four current Assembly members won re-election on November 8. , with two new members of the Assembly and two new senators joining, swelling the ranks of the caucus by 50%. The AP has yet to call a remaining race that could add an additional LGBTQ lawmaker.
Legislators will be sworn in for their new term on December 5; between both chambers there are a total of 120 legislators.
The US Census found that 9.1% of Californians identify as LGBT, compared to 7.9% of the nation overall, so the legislature will have roughly achieved parity in sexual orientation and identity of gender Meanwhile, the Legislature has yet to achieve parity in gender or race and ethnicity, according to statistics from the California State Library.
New Hampshire and Vermont have each had more LGBTQ lawmakers, according to the institute, but their legislatures are larger than California’s and thus have not reached the 10 percent 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 an opportunity just to say that number one, we’re here, we have something to contribute and we can lead and represent with the best of them,” said Jackson, a Riverside County school board member.
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 state legislature in the United States.
He said he was motivated to run after a state bill that would have required schools to notify parents of their children’s evolving gender identity and expression 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, was also buoyed by growing anti-transgender rhetoric.
Finke hopes to ban so-called conversion therapy in Minnesota and, like California, turn the state into a sanctuary for children and their parents, who can’t access gender-affirming health care elsewhere.
“I just thought, ‘This can’t stand. We have to have trans people in these rooms. If we’re going to lose our rights, at least they have to look us in the eye when they do it,'” he said.
Massachusetts and Oregon elected the country’s first lesbian governors.
Charlotte Perri, a 23-year-old get-out-the-vote organizer in Portland, Ore., said she was moved by Gov.-elect Tina Kotek’s talk at a campaign event about young people 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 mostly Democrats, 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 lawmakers contrasts with efforts in some states led by members of Santos’ party to limit the influence, visibility and rights of LGBTQ people.
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In Tennessee, leaders of the state’s GOP legislative supermajority said the first bill of the 2023 session would seek to ban care for gender-affirming minors. Tennessee has an LGBTQ lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Torrey Harris.
The state has already banned transgender athletes from participating in girls’ middle and high school sports and has restricted which bathrooms transgender students and employees can use.
The Human Rights Campaign tracked what it identified as anti-LGTBQ laws introduced in 23 states this year and said they became law in 13: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky , Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee. , Utah and Louisiana.
Instead, “as California’s LGBTQ Legislative Caucus has grown, the state has led the nation in passing groundbreaking legislation that protects LGBTQ+ civil rights,” said a spokesperson for Equality California , Samuel Garrett-Pate.
Wiener carried 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 drugs. Other laws pushed by LGBTQ lawmakers over the years gave foster children rights to gender affirmation and allowed non-binary gender markers on state identification.
It’s too early to have a solid plan for new legislation, California caucus members said, but Wiener noted that areas to consider include transgender employment resources; homelessness and crime among at-risk LGBTQ youth; and sexual health services.
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Jackson said he found hope in the election results not only in California, but across the country.
“Now we have US senators, now we have governors, now we have trans lawmakers in this country,” Jackson said. “So in the midst of stories of hate and stories of demonization, you still see rainbows of hope across our nation.”