With more LGBTQ Democrats than ever before running for office, a potential ‘rainbow wave’ this November could reshape the fight for equality.
But this wave won’t crest on its own. In order to take back Congress from the hands of anti-LGBTQ Republicans, it requires each and every one of us to register to vote and cast a ballot for Democrats this November.
For the last two decades, Democrats have led the fight for LGBTQ rights — spearheading the fight for marriage equality and fighting the outdated and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. The Obama administration ensured that queer voices were heard by appointing more than 250 LGBTQ people to federal positions, banning discrimination against LGBTQ people by federal contractors, and ending the shameful “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. A Democratic Congress delivered protections against hate crimes by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Act. And just this summer, the Democratic National Committee updated the language of its rules to be more inclusive of gender nonconforming Democrats.
There is good reason to be optimistic about the fight for full equality, but today our hard-earned progress faces a serious threat from President Trump and his anti-LGBTQ agenda.
But in the 21 months since his inauguration, President Trump has put our community in his crosshairs. Before he even attended an Inaugural Ball, Trump scrubbed all mentions of LGBTQ issues from the White House website. In his first year alone, Trump tried to ban transgender people from serving openly in the military, rescinded an Obama-era memo that protected the rights of trans workers, and supported allowing discrimination against gay couples in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Nearly a third of his judicial appointments have blatantly anti-LGBTQ records and threaten to eliminate critical legal protections. He’s even twice refused to recognize Pride Month.
Without a Democratic counterbalance to this dangerous administration, the progress we’ve made will continue to slip away. Democrats have always been there for us in the fight for equality — and this year more than ever, we need to be there for them by voting Democratic this November.
Better yet, there are hundreds of LGBTQ candidates challenging Republican incumbents who could give our community the direct representation it deserves. In response to Trump’s hostility, queer Democrats are fighting back by running for office in record numbers — leading to the most diverse slate of Democratic candidates in history.
On the trail, not only are they leaning into their identity, but they are grounding their campaigns in bold ideas that can get this country back on track.
Nobody knows how to fight back harder than former MMA boxer Sharice Davids, who is taking her fight out of the ring and into the deep-red 3rd Congressional District in Kansas. She’s taped her fists with universal health care, environment protections, and gay rights. She’s a lesbian; she’s Native American; she’s a warrior.
Jared Polis — running to be the nation’s first openly gay governor— hopes his election will be a “thumb in the eye” of Vice President Mike Pence. But his bold vision for Colorado extends beyond just his sexuality: He wants Colorado to reach for 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 to prevent climate change from degrading his state’s breathtaking mountains, rivers and plains.
As someone whose family lost their health insurance while she was growing up, Kyrsten Sinema wants all Arizonans to have access to quality health care. In the mold of the late John McCain, she knows what it takes to reach across the aisle to achieve progress — like when she leveraged her bisexual identity to champion the bipartisan effort to defeat an Arizona constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
In Vermont, Christine Hallquist is blazing the trail not only for transgender equality, but also for everyday Vermont families. Despite being the first transgender candidate to win the nomination to run for governor from any major party, she adamantly focuses her message on a $15 minimum wage, paid leave policies, and tuition-free public colleges.
Our candidates are winners, but they need your help to carry on the fight. We can’t afford to sit this election out.
Cast a vote for an LGBTQ candidate and our Democratic allies this November so they can continue to fight for our rights. We deserve elected officials who represent the diversity of the American people and have our interests at heart. Electing lesbian, gay, bi and trans folks up and down the ballot is a big step in the right direction.
Earl Fowlkes is chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic National Committee.