While the outcome in the 2016 Presidential race was devastating for many in the LGBTQ community, the election wasn’t all bad news. In down ballot races, the election proved that pro-equality women can still come out on top. Hillary Clinton didn’t break the highest and hardest glass ceiling, but four incredible women made history in their own right by winning U.S. Senate seats: Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Maggie Hassan and Kamala Harris.
This Women's History Month, we're honoring these female advocates who made U.S. Senate history: Cortez Masto is the country’s first-ever Latina senator; Duckworth is the first-ever Thai American senator, and the first woman senator to serve in a combat role in the U.S. Army; and Harris is the country’s first Indian American senator, and California’s first African American senator.
The 115th U.S. Senate has more women members than ever before -- a record-breaking 21 -- including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is the nation's first openly-lesbian U.S. Senator.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
As Nevada’s Senator, Cortez Masto is committed to working with HRC to ensure that historic LGBTQ equality gains are protected and to fight LGBTQ discrimination. She has said, “It is outrageous that in 2016 people can still be at risk of losing their jobs in this country because of whom they love.. in the Senate I will focus on ensuring LGBT people are treated equally under the law by working to end discrimination.”
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
Senator Tammy Duckworth has been a strong LGBTQ ally in the House of Representatives. Duckworth received a perfect score on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for both of her terms in the House of Representatives. She is a cosponsor of the Equality Act and the Global Respect Act, which would provide a means to prevent individuals who violate the human rights of LGBTQ people from entry into the United States.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark marriage equality case, Obergefell v. Hodges, she said, “I am so proud that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of love, commitment and equality today. The LGBT community is entitled to the same rights afforded to everyone else and our nation has taken an enormous step towards being more fair and just.”
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Throughout her career, Maggie Hassan has fought for the rights of all citizens to participate fully in the civic and economic life of their communities. As a state senator, she worked tirelessly to achieve marriage equality, helping make New Hampshire one of the first states to pass legislation ensuring access to legal marriage for all. Last year, as Governor of New Hampshire, she took a bold and historic step by issuing an executive order extending vitally important non-discrimination protections to transgender people in New Hampshire with respect to government employment, contracts and programs.
Hassan’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is illustrated in a digital ad HRC released in support of Hassan, “Raymond Braun Reflects on Why He Came Out to Maggie Hassan.” “I've known Maggie Hassan for more than 10 years,” Braun said, “and I've seen firsthand what a great champion she is for equality. Maggie was one of the first people I came out to, and I am honored to be able to share my experiences with the great people of New Hampshire.”
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
As California Attorney General, Kamala Harris stood up for LGBTQ rights. She led the team that helped bring down California’s Proposition 8 at the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2015, worked to stop an abhorrent and unconstitutional proposed ballot initiative that could have criminalized same-sex relationships, potentially threatening those convicted with death. She advanced a robust platform for LGBTQ equality in her Senate campaign, fighting for LGBTQ youth, and vowing to work to include essential protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In 2014, Harris spoke at HRC’s Los Angeles Gala, where she shared her experience fighting for marriage equality in California and across the United States. She said, “Let us stand together on the side of fighting for justice and equality,” and called for LGBTQ equality, reproductive health rights, immigration reform and voting rights.
Despite the uphill climb for this congress to advance legislation protecting and defending the rights of the LGBTQ community, members of Congress plan to reintroduce the Equality Act during this legislative session -- proving that these remarkable women will continue to stand on the right side of history.