• Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

In California, 10% of the Legislature now identify as LGBTQ

DON THOMPSON Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — While LGBTQ candidates and their supporters celebrated several milestone victories nationwide in this year’s midterm election, California quietly achieved its own: At least 10% of its state legislatures publicly identify as LGBTQ, in what is believed to be a first for any U.S. legislature .

California lawmakers, all Democrats, are proud of their success but say it underscores the hard work that remains in their own state and elsewhere, such as dealing with the fallout of measures like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” -Law banning some classes on sexual orientation and gender identity or laws in other states restricting transgender students’ participation in sports or blocking gender-affirming medical care for youth.

The milestone was further obscured by last weekend’s shooting at a Colorado gay nightclub that killed five and injured many more. Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who has just won a second term, became the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state when he won in 2018.

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“When it comes to LGBTQ people, we are on two paths: On the one hand, we win socially. People by and large have no problem with LGBTQ people, they support us, they accept LGBTQ candidates and are willing to vote for them,” said California Senator Scott Wiener, a member of the LGBTQ caucus.

However, he said: “Despite the fact that we are winning the battle in society at large, you have a very vocal, dangerous minority of extremists who are constantly attacking and demonizing our community.”

At least 519 LGBTQ candidates have won elected office this year, in positions ranging from school board to congressional and governor, said LGBTQ Victory Fund press secretary Albert Fujii. That’s a record since 2020, when 336 LGBTQ candidates won, according to the group, which worked with Equality California to calculate, making California the first state to cross the 10 percent threshold.

Of the 12 current or future members of the California Legislature, eight have been part of their LGBTQ caucus, including the Senate leader and three other senators whose terms run through 2024. Four current Assembly members won re-election on November 8, with two new Assembly members and two new Senators joining them, increasing the faction’s ranks by 50%. The AP has yet to name a remaining race that could add an additional LGBTQ lawmaker.

Lawmakers will be sworn in for their new terms on December 5; between the two chambers there are a total of 120 legislators.

The U.S. Census showed that 9.1% of Californians identified as LGBT — compared to 7.9% nationwide — so the legislature will have roughly achieved equality in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. Meanwhile, according to statistics from the California State Library, the legislature has yet to achieve gender equality or race and ethnicity equality.

New Hampshire and Vermont each had more LGBTQ legislators, according to the institute, but their legislatures are larger than California’s and therefore did not reach the 10 percent threshold.

The 2022 election is a landscape of firsts for LGBTQ people, including Corey Jackson, the first gay black man in the California legislature, who noted that African Americans — particularly black trans people — are particularly marginalized.

“I think this is an opportunity to just say that we’re here, we have something to contribute, and we can lead and represent with the best of them,” said Jackson, a Riverside County school board member.

Alaska and South Dakota elected their first LGBTQ legislators, and Montana and Minnesota elected their first transgender legislators, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In New Hampshire, 26-year-old Democrat James Roesener became the first trans man elected to a US state.

He said he was motivated to pursue a state bill that would have required schools to educate parents about developments in their children’s gender identity and expression, which narrowly failed. Opponents of such requirements say they can invade children’s privacy and put them at risk of abuse in the home.

Leigh Finke, who was elected in Minnesota, was also fueled by growing anti-transgender rhetoric.

Finke hopes to ban so-called conversion therapy in Minnesota and make the state, like California, a sanctuary for children and their parents who don’t have access to gender-affirming health care elsewhere.

“I just thought, ‘This can’t stand.’ “We need to have trans people in these spaces. If we lose our rights, they need to at least look us in the eye while we’re doing it,” she said.

Massachusetts and Oregon elected the nation’s first lesbian governors.

Charlotte Perri, a 23-year-old election organizer in Portland, Oregon, said she was emotionally touched when she spoke to governor-elect Tina Kotek at a campaign event about young people thanking her for running.

“It’s hard as a young queer person to be optimistic about everything that’s going on,” Perri said.

Jackson said he found hope in the election results not just in California but across the country.

“We now have US senators, we now have governors, we actually have trans legislators in this country now,” Jackson said. “So amid stories of hate and demonization, you still see rainbows of hope across our nation. ”

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