January 13, 2015 at 4:40 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Polis, Ros-Lehtinen to co-sponsor LGBT Hill staffer group

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Jared Polis, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

A pair of LGBT advocates in Congress announced on Tuesday they would co-sponsor the affinity group for LGBT Hill staffers working for members of the U.S. House.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), signaled they would support the charter for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association in the 114th Congress.

Because it’s an officially sanctioned, non-partisan group within the U.S. House, the LGBT Congressional Staff Association must have sponsorship of one or more sitting members of Congress.

“I’m proud of so many dedicated congressional staffers who have created the CSA to increase awareness and mentorship on Capitol Hill,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Congressman Polis is a great leader on LGBT issues and I look forward to continue working with him to promote inclusiveness and acceptance on Capitol Hill and across our nation.”

Ros-Lehtinen’s co-sponsorship of the organization marks the first time a Republican has authored the charter for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, according to the group. Previously, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and then Polis had sponsored the group — both within the 113th Congress.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen in supporting an organization dedicated to promoting diversity and openness here in Congress,” Polis said. “The values the CSA promotes, by encouraging staff to be honest about themselves and mentoring leaders for tomorrow, help make Congress a better place and I’m excited to join Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen in supporting their bipartisan work.”

The LGBT Congressional Staff Association is but one group on Capitol Hill for LGBT staffers. That organization, which was initiated 20 years ago and renewed in 2010, is for staffers working for the U.S. House. Another group, the GLASS Caucus, is for staff and interns employed by the U.S. Senate.

Michelle Mittler, president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, was among the members of the group praising Polis and Ros-Lehtinen for supporting the organization.

“The LGBT CSA has been sponsored historically by Democrats. However, the fight for LGBT equality is not a partisan issue, it’s a human one,” Mittler said. “It’s incredibly meaningful to have someone who is both a Republican and a woman take on this kind of leadership role. Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen’s co-sponsorship undoubtedly strengthens our organization and recruitment of new Capitol Hill staffers in the coming term of Congress.”

Mitchell Rivard, vice president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, said bi-partisan co-sponsorship sends a strong signal about the organization, which is estimated to have more than 160 members.

“We are honored and proud to partner with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Jared Polis to continue advocating for openly LGBT staffers on Capitol Hill,” Rivard said. “Having two champions of LGBT rights sponsor our organization in the 114th Congress — one Republican, one Democrat — sends a strong message that promoting equality isn’t a partisan issue. It is our hope that all Members of Congress can follow the leadership and bipartisan tone set by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Polis to order to promote equality for all.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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