February 23, 2016 at 12:48 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
‘Equality PAC’ seeks to support pro-LGBT candidates
Obergefell v. Hodges, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Openly gay Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is one of the co-chairs of the Equality PAC. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Two openly gay lawmakers — Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) — announced on Tuesday a political action committee aimed at supporting candidates running for federal office who are LGBT or seek to advance LGBT rights.

The PAC, called the Equality PAC, has no legal relationship to the LGBT Equality Caucus, but there’s some overlap between the two entities. Roddy Flynn, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus, also serves as Equality PAC managing director.

“Equality PAC is working with LGBT coalition partners to support candidates who are truly dedicated to full legal and societal equality for LGBT people,” Flynn said in a statement. “The PAC Board will make sure that its endorsed candidates, be they LGBT themselves or straight, cis-gender members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, pledge to be on the vanguard of the fight for LGBT equality by championing legislation like the Equality Act.”

The Equality PAC has already made its initial endorsements. The first non-incumbent candidate endorsed by the Equality Act is Angie Craig, a lesbian mother in a same-sex marriage who’s running for the open seat in Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district vacated by retiring Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.).

“I am honored to have the support of the leaders of Congressional LGBT Caucus,” Craig said in a statement. “My wife and I have worked tirelessly on behalf of the LGBT community and our families. While we have made tremendous progress in areas such as marriage equality, there is still much work left to do. When I’m elected to Congress, I will continue the fight to ensure that the LGBT community continues to make progress toward a country free from discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in all forms of civic life.”

Also endorsed by the Equality PAC are incumbent Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who’s bisexual, and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay.

The PAC, which will be co-chaired by Polis and Takano, also has a board of directors, which consists of Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Joseph Kennedy, III (D-Mass.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.). All of Democrats and members of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

In a statement, Takano expressed excitement about the creation of the Equality PAC and praised Craig upon her receipt of the PAC’s endorsement.

“I am also proud that the PAC will be supporting Angie Craig’s candidacy,” Takano added. “I personally endorsed Angie in 2015 because it is clear that she has the right experience, values and vision to bring new leadership to the House. I am certain that the support of the Equality PAC will make Angie one of many new LGBT members to be elected this November.”

Also praising Craig in a statement was Polis, who said he’s also “enthusiastically supporting” the Minnesota Democrat in her campaign for a U.S House seat.

“Angie’s unique experience and integrity ensures in her you will get a true public servant that knows what it takes and will fight for the chance for all American to succeed,” Polis said. “It’s time we build an inclusive America and restore the American Dream for every one, I look forward to working along side Angie to do just that.”

The PAC is similar to the PAC’s associated with caucuses for other minority groups on Capitol Hill, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian-Pacific Islander Caucus. Earlier this month, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, Flynn said the Equality PAC came about because lawmakers wanted a PAC to support LGBT and non-LGBT candidates who are eager to advance LGBT rights. The PAC was actually founded in October 2014, Flynn said, but didn’t have significant direction until this time.

Candidates seeking the Equality PAC’s endorsement, Flynn said, would fill out a questionnaire and their answers would decide if the Equality PAC could support them.

Factors that would determine an endorsement is how much the PAC can raise in total to support candidates with direct contributions, the extent to which a candidate make LGBT rights part of his or her vision and whether a certain race is competitive enough to need the Equality PAC’s support, Flynn said.

“What we’re looking at even more than identifying as LGBT is are you fully supportive of LGBT equality, right?” Flynn said. “Because there are candidates who can identify as LGBT, but not necessarily be on board with the Equality Act, on board with everything being trans-inclusive, which is obviously a top priority.”

Prospective candidates, Flynn added, should be “committed to having LGBT issues be not just one item on their campaign but be a primary motivator for what they plan to accomplish in Congress.”

Flynn said Republicans would be eligible for endorsements, but the PAC would take into consideration whether candidates support the Equality Act — which is currently sponsored by only one Republican in the House and one Republican in the Senate — and the candidate’s planned vote for congressional leadership.

Flynn said the immediate focus of the Equality PAC is House candidates, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility of getting into the presidential race.

“As right now, we have no involvement in the presidential race,” Flynn said. “We very well could later, but I’ll say right now, we’re just focused on the U.S. House of Representatives and doing the best we can to get more pro-LGBT folks in the House.”

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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