Human Rights Campaign Hails Appointment of Laphonza Butler to Fill Dianne Feinstein’s Senate Seat

by Delphine Luneau

EMILYs List President Will Be First Black Lesbian to Openly Serve in Congress After Years of Leadership in Fight for Reproductive Freedom and Labor Rights

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — today congratulated Laphonza Butler, president of abortion rights organization EMILYs List, for her appointment to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the recent passing of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Butler’s selection by California Gov. Gavin Newsom will make her the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the Senate. She’ll be just the third Black woman to have ever served in the Senate.

“The appointment of Laphonza Butler to the Senate is a landmark moment in the fight for social, racial and economic justice. As the first Black lesbian to represent California in the United States Senate, Laphonza brings a compelling voice for abortion rights, the labor movement and civil rights into Congress. Her leadership is a testament to the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s strong record of pro-LGBTQ+ support,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. “The threats to reproductive freedoms and LGBTQ+ families emanating from the Supreme Court and anti-equality politicians are twin crises that require immediate attention, and Laphonza Butler is an exceptional advocate on both of these issues. We thank Gov. Newsom for making an excellent choice in Laphonza Butler to succeed Senator Feinstein.”

Butler’s interim appointment will allow the pro-equality majority in the Senate to maintain its 51-49 advantage, ensuring that a strong check remains against the anti-equality majority in the House of Representatives — where anti-LGBTQ+, and especially anti-trans, legislation has been brought repeatedly since the start of the current Congress. In addition to attaching numerous anti-LGBTQ+ provisions to their draft spending bills, the legislative attacks from Republicans in the House include stand-alone bills such as H.R. 734 — a nationwide ban on transgender students playing sports — as well as larger legislative packages like H.R. 5, which included book bans and provisions stigmatizing transgender students.

In June, HRC officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time in its more than 40-year history. The declaration followed an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses — more than 525 bills were introduced in 41 states just in 2023, and more than 80 were enacted into law. The sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ measures has spawned a dizzying patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have created increasingly hostile and dangerous environments for LGBTQ+ people.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Contact Us

To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email