HRC Celebrates LGBTQ History Month By Honoring These Trailblazing Candidates

by HRC Staff

This LGBTQ History Month, HRC is proud to honor those who helped pave the way for LGBTQ rights, as well as today’s trailblazers who are helping to forge new paths for equality.

This LGBTQ History Month, HRC is proud to honor those who helped pave the way for LGBTQ rights, as well as today’s trailblazers who are helping to forge new paths for equality.

Nowhere is the progress that we’ve made clearer than in the out and proud LGBTQ candidates who are running for office this year. In 2020, with HRC endorsing 59 pro-equality LGBTQ candidates, we’re poised to elect another rainbow wave of candidates up and down the ballot, at all levels of government, from city halls to state legislatures to Congress. But we wouldn’t be in this position without the change-makers who came before us.

One of the trailblazers that we remember this year is the iconic Harvey Milk. In 1977, Milk made history when he was elected to serve as a city supervisor for the city of San Francisco, becoming one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country. Milk dedicated his life — both prior to and while in office — to advocating for a better and more equitable society for LGBTQ people and all people who hold marginalized identities. Without his efforts over 40 years ago, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

We also honor Danica Roem as another trailblazing elected official. Elected in November 2017 and sworn in on January 2018, Roem is the first openly transgender person to be both elected and seated in a state legislature in the U.S. She was re-elected in November 2019. In 2017, Roem defeated Virginia’s self-described “chief homophobe” Delegate Bob Marshall, who had a vicious, anti-LGBTQ record, and in both 2017 and 2019, she fought back against anti-LGBTQ —specifically transphobic— attacks. Her fight and victories have inspired countless LGBTQ people — particularly young transgender people — across the country.

Transgender candidates such as Rep. Brianna Titone, who became the first openly trangender person to be elected to the Colorado Legislature in 2018 and Stephanie Byers in Kansas, help propel the fight for LGBTQ equality forward. Titone is currently running for re-election to the Colorado state House. As one of the few out transgender state legislators in the nation, her re-election is of importance for the inclusion and representation of transgender people in politics. Byers is on track to be the first openly transgender member of the Kansas legislature after this November’s election.

We’re also honoring Andrea Jenkins, who made history at the same time as Roem. Jenkins is the first African-American and openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. Since January 2018, she has served on the Minneapolis City Council, and also joined the HRC Board of Directors in July 2020. A writer, poet, advocate and activist, Jenkins is truly breaking boundaries for everyone, especially Black trans women and trans women of color.

Openly LGBTQ leaders and our allies have also helped us achieve tremendous victories. Last year, in a major milestone for equality, the U.S. House passed the Equality Act, which would provide explicit federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. We also achieved a major win this year with the Bostock v. Clayton County Supreme Court decision, which affirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

It’s more important than ever to remember that we need to continue fighting for progress and to preserve the gains we’ve made. Now, we must make sure that Bostock is enforced and the Equality Act is passed through the Senate and signed into law by a pro-equality president.

We’ll achieve this by ensuring pro-equality and out LGBTQ candidates are elected in November —candidates such as Jon Hoadley, the first openly gay Michigan state representative, who is running for Congress this year. An outspoken advocate for LGBTQ equality and rights, Hoadley has long fought to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

HRC has also endorsed Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, who are running for New York congressional seats, and Georgette Gomez who is running for Congress in California. If they win, Jones would become the first openly gay Black member of Congress Torres would become the first LGBTQ Afro-Latino member of Congress, and Gomez would become the first LGBTQ Latina in Congress.

Additionally, Gina Ortiz Jones is running to represent Texas’ 23rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. If elected, Ortiz Jones will become the first openly lesbian member of Congress from Texas. Jones served in the U.S. military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which banned LGBTQ people from openly serving.

Of course, there is also Sarah McBride who would become the first openly transgender person to serve in the upper chamber of a state legislature in American history. McBribe has already won the Democractic primary for Delaware’s 1st state Senate District.

At the local level, LGBTQ champions like HRC-endorsed Todd Gloria are fighting for equality, rights and protections for us all. Gloria is an openly gay politician and an LGBTQ person of color running for Mayor of San Diego. If elected, Gloria would join Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot as the second current openly LGBTQ mayor of a major U.S. city.

Furthermore, HRC also honors previously endorsed trailblazers such as Tammy Baldwin, the first openly LGBTQ U.S. Senator and Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual person in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Reps. Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, and Chris Pappas, who are all openly LGBTQ and were elected to Congress in 2018, are champions for LGBTQ equality.

In the 2018 midterms, HRC mobilized our grassroots army of 3.2 million members, supporters, and volunteers to work on behalf of pro-equality candidates and engage pro-equality voters. This unprecedented grassroots mobilization worked to recruit and train volunteers, register and mobilize voters and grow the organization's political organizing efforts in order to pull the emergency brake on the hateful anti-LGBTQ agenda of the Trump-Pence administration and elect a Congress that would hold them accountable.

In 2020, our engagement and mobilization efforts have only deepened in order to engage and mobilize 57 million Equality Voters nationwide. With the LGBTQ and ally voting block exponentially growing, HRC volunteers and staff are working hard to secure victories for pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot. Through HRC’s mobile app and Operation Swing State, HRC volunteers are able to engage voters in conversation about candidates’ stances on LGBTQ-related issues and share crucial information on how to register to vote and cast ballots.

HRC has also partnered with Power the Polls, an initiative to recruit a new wave of poll workers to address a shortage of poll workers due to the coronavirus while also ensuring more LGBTQ see themselves represented at the polls.

Despite recent gains, we need trailblazers and visibility more than ever. The Trump-Pence administration continues to implement hateful and harmful policies that hurt LGBTQ adults, youth and families in the U.S., and refuses to condemn anti-LGBTQ actions worldwide. Nationally and internationally, the administration continues to fail LGBTQ people.

As we celebrate LGBTQ History Month, we acknowledge that we have a long way to go to achieve full equality. We must remember those who came before us, and those who are currently fighting for us, and honor them with action as we move forward and continue advocating for full equality.