By STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK
There is a big difference between being a topic of conversation and being a part of the conversation. If we want a truly representative democracy, we need to elect a government that actually looks like our nation of individuals – of every gender, race, religion and orientation.
EMILY’s List works on making that vision a reality by supporting diverse Democratic women candidates for every level of office. And we have work to do: We elected an historic number of women in 2012, but women are still only 19 percent of Congress. That’s one of the reasons we’ll fight for the underdog candidate when we know she is the right one.
In 2011, when everyone told us that Tammy Baldwin couldn’t win a Senate race in Wisconsin, we put everything we had behind her and made it happen. We’d been standing with Tammy for years and knew she was a champion for every Wisconsinite. And, in 2012, Baldwin made history when she was elected as our nation’s first openly gay United States Senator.
Having her voice in the Senate makes a difference. Having Kyrsten Sinema’s voice in the House of Representatives makes a difference. Having Annise Parker as mayor of Houston makes a difference.
Having LGBT voices in the halls of power is not just important, it’s essential. It’s something we need to work on every month, not just Pride Month, because the work these women do has a lasting impact.
Women like current candidate for governor of Maryland, Del. Heather Mizeur, who has done incredible work to bring marriage equality to her state. As a city councilor she helped Takoma Park become the first municipality to pass a resolution in support of same-sex marriage and as a state delegate, her passionate floor speech helped secure final passage for statewide marriage equality. And women like candidate for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey who, as assistant attorney general took on the federal government and worked working tirelessly to challenge DOMA and see it overturned.
In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker championed an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite threats of a recall, Parker refuses to put political games ahead of the rights of the people of Houston. In Nevada, state Sen. Pat Spearman, an advocate for LGBT people of color, ensured gender identity protections were included in hate crimes prevention laws. Oregon’s House Speaker Tina Kotek played a large role in the passage of the Oregon Family Fairness Act, the Oregon Equality Act and strengthening laws to protect students from bullying in schools.
Elections matter. Electing these women has changed their towns and states and our country. Electing more LGBT women and more women LGBT allies will make ours a more inclusive country.
Right now, the EMILY’s List women in the Senate have a 100 percent record on supporting the overturning of DOMA, backing an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act, voting for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and publicly backing marriage equality. That’s a record I am proud of.
One of the bravest things you can do in a democracy is put your name on the ballot. Especially when you may not meet the stereotypes of a candidate, or be the most obvious person to run for office.
We need to stand with the women brave enough to do just that. This is a nation of individuals, and it should be a nation where everyone can be proud of what makes them unique, and have their voices heard.
Stephanie Schriock is president of EMILY’s List.