Amid a seemingly endless string of news reports on White House scandals, speakers at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s annual brunch in D.C. sought to rally the crowd with victories wherever they could find them.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), predicting a “difficult campaign for re-election” to keep her seat in the 2018 race, envisioned achieving another milestone.
“Come 2019, we can find ourselves back in the day when our community didn’t have a voice in the United States Senate, or I could be standing here as the first openly LGBT person to be re-elected to the United States Senate,” Baldwin said.
Despite discontent with the Trump administration, Baldwin pointed to instances in which President Trump — not once, but twice — considered an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” executive order, but ultimately didn’t issue it, as minor victories and evidence of the LGBT community’s strength.
“Was it Ivanka and Jared to the rescue again? Maybe,” Baldwin said. “But we should understand that it’s our activism that created the environment in which even President Trump felt he needed to tread lightly and carefully, and that these victories as unfulfilling as they are compared to the ones we’ve won in the past, these are worth celebrating.”
Victory Fund CEO Aisha Moodie-Mills during her remarks told the estimated 650 attendees “after this crazy news cycle that we all just had, I think we all deserve a drink or two just to keep from losing our damn minds.”
“While we were busy electing LGBTQ people who are committed to safeguarding our community and making the nation a more equitable place for all Americans, this administration was busy banning people, and sanctioning licenses to discriminate against us, and most disgustingly, stripping protections for transgender youth and leaving our young people even more vulnerable than they already are,” Moodie-Mills said. “So please, whatever you do, don’t believe the hype: This administration is no friend to the gays.”
As evidence of her organization’s success, Moodie-Mills said her organization has helped elect eight LGBT officials in Trump’s first 100 days in office. The Trump White House has appointed zero high-level openly LGBT appointees.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who’s gay and recently a candidate for Democratic National Committee chair, said he resisted the idea his state, which voted to elect Trump and Mike Pence as governor, was homophobic.
“Which one’s the real Indiana?” Buttigieg said. “A state of acceptance consistent with our motto, ‘Hoosier Hospitality,’ or a state trying to turn back the clock to a less inclusive time? And the answer of course is all of the above. That’s my message today. Every community, every state, is full of people, often the same people, capable of great love and openness and capable of smallness and backwardness.”
Buttigieg said he just came from University of Notre Dame, where Vice President Mike Pence was prepared to deliver the commencement speech, and said the campus was “covered in Pride flags.”
Calling for a “renewed American solidarity,” Buttigieg said concerns of Trump voters and those of marginalized communities aren’t that different.
“That sense of concern that motivates a blue-collar worker wondering if he’s going to have a job in three years is not that different from what’s on the mind of an undocumented mother fearing that she could taken away from her children or a junior in high school in Indiana who just needs to use the bathroom like everybody else,” Buttigieg said.
Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo told attendees he had opened an exploratory campaign to run for governor in his state, which could lead to him being the first openly gay person elected governor in the country.
“My state, the state that I love faces real challenges, but the fact is across America, we are facing real challenges — both threats coming from state capitols and from the nation’s capitol put us at risk,” Lembo said. “And now, it’s more important than ever to support LGBTQ leaders, to give our resistance an even stronger voice and to show the next generation that there’s a place for them in public service, too, because representation is powerful and it matters.”
Highlighted at the brunch were two transgender candidates who would make history if they succeed in winning seats in the upcoming election.
Danica Roem, who’s running to unseat anti-LGBT Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) in the Virginia House, said his defeat at the hands of a transgender person would have particular significance, referencing his remarks calling transgender people “gender confused.”
“Let me make this really clear for you: When the people of the 13th District elect a transgender woman to replace the most anti-LGBT legislator in the South, it will be an act of certainty, and it will be a defining moment that will resonate across the country,” Roem said.
Also speaking at the brunch was Andrea Jenkins, a candidate for the Minneapolis City Council, who could become the first openly transgender person elected to the city council of a major U.S. city.
“Trans people across the nation are under attack from people who misunderstand us, or worse, don’t want to understand us, and I plan to be a strong voice who can defend our community and advocate on its behalf,” Jenkins said.