A Note on Holding Politicians Accountable

by Joni Madison

Voting rights are foundational to our democracy. They are also core to succeeding in our mission to achieve full equality for all LGBTQ+ people. Racial equity and inclusion must be a cornerstone of that work – including fighting for the ability of Black and Brown people to participate in our democracy. If members of our community -- or any other -- lose the vote, we lose the ability to protect the rights we have won and to advance our progress.

Unfortunately, as many of you know, the most recent efforts to pass voting rights legislation failed in the Senate, after all Senate Republicans filibustered major voting rights legislation and Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin refused to support an exception to the filibuster to allow the bill to advance.

The failure of the Senate to pass meaningful federal voting rights legislation is a devastating loss for BIPOC communities in our country, and particularly for Black voters who have historically fought uphill for this right. This lack of action is a failure of our Congress to protect the marginalized and multiply-marginalized communities in the United States. It is unacceptable, and we will do everything we can to prevent voter suppression in our future.

This work starts with electing senators dedicated to protecting our rights. I know many of us were frustrated and angry over Senator Sinema’s refusal to support the procedural bypass of the filibuster. I and my HRC colleagues share that frustration – as a donor and a supporter of her campaign, I am deeply disappointed and deeply frustrated with the Senator myself.

We must hold politicians accountable. We have been working diligently to make sure we hold Senator Sinema accountable now and in the future.

Prior to the vote, HRC directly called on her to enable the Senate to change its rules to allow voting rights reform to pass; and then we directly let her know that we felt betrayed by her actions after the vote. We have long prioritized voting rights reform, and let Senator Sinema – and all Senate offices – know that the vote on the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and the proposed modification to the filibuster would be considered key votes for this year’s HRC Congressional Scorecard, and that it will continue to be considered during any future endorsement process. We generated grassroots calls from HRC members and drove supporters to Senate offices urging passage of the bill and included voting rights as one of our key asks for participants in our Lobby Days. And we worked with our national coalition partners to support the Freedom to Vote: John R Lewis Act.

That work did not yield the results we were hoping for, and we have strongly conveyed that to Senators, including Senator Sinema, directly.

But HRC is structured differently than the organizations that publicly condemned the Senator. Some organizations endorse candidates, while others work to advance policy. HRC endorses candidates, supports them through their election, works with them to pass legislation and policy, and holds them accountable for their commitments and actions. With nearly three years left in Senator Sinema’s term, we still have much work to do. We are focused on advancing all of our priorities, including, but not limited to:

  • Protecting the right to vote

  • Passing the Equality Act

  • Passing Build Back Better (BBB)

  • Confirming President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee

  • Confirming judicial nominations

  • Ensuring reproductive freedom

  • Passing immigration reform

  • Passing criminal justice reform

  • And much more.

Strategically, we have to consider the long view and the impact of the work ahead. With that in mind, we will continue to work with the current Senate to advance equality for our community, in all of our intersecting identities. And as part of that work, we will continue to be honest with those who fall short of their commitments to us and our community.