A Rainbow Wave Sweeps the Nation, But What do they Stand For?
By David T. Valentin
The 117th U.S. Congress will be the most diverse congress in the United States’ history. According to The Advocate, Congress now holds over 100 women, over 50 black members, 39 Hispanic members, two Native American women, and two Muslim women. For the 117th U.S. of this year’s election that number has gone from only nine LGBTQ legislators to 10, as Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres in New York became the first openly gay black men to win election to Congress. That means there are two LGBTQ Senators and eight LGBTQ Congress members.
With the current wave of diversity, as well as the rainbow wave washing over United States Legislation, more voices are being heard all over the country. And while diversity is important, what’s most important is getting to know what these politicians stand for. Will they be able to be a voice to push for the big changes necessary in the coming years and will they continue to fight for the minority communities that they belong to? Or will they give us more of the same? Let’s take a look at some of their history.
Tammy Baldwin is a Democrat senator in Wisconsin and was elected first to the House of Representatives in 1999 and to the Senate in 2013. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate Baldwin became the first LGBT Woman to be elected into both respectively, and also the first woman to be elected to either from Wisconsin. After winning her reelection in 2018, she continues to serve as Wisconsin’s senator to this day. She has been a reliable Democratic vote in both chambers and has been a strong advocate for the working class, science, and equal rights for all.
Kyrsten Sinema is Arizona’s Democrat senator, elected to the Senate on January 3rd, 2019. She made her first political debut as an activist in the Arizona Green Party as a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and anti-war sentiment. She joined the Democratic Party in 2004 and in 2012 ran for United States of House Representatives election in Arizona’s 9th Congressional district and won. According to her voting records, Sinema has been noted to be more of a moderate Democrat and known for breaking from her fellow Democratic members on certain issues.
In the House of Representatives, we have eight LGBT members to date.
Starting with Democrat David Cicilline, who represents Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional district and has held his district since 2011. Prior to serving as representative, Cicilline served as the 36th Mayor of Providence from 2003 to 2011, making history by becoming the first openly gay mayor of a U.S state capital. Even so, his tenure as mayor proved to be a shaky one and marred by controversy which ultimately dropped his approval rating. Within the House of Representatives, Cicilline is an advocate for the Democratic Party and has shown he would vote with the Democratic Party on the majority of bills.
Angie Craigis a Democrat who represents the 2nd Congressional district of Minnesota since 2019. According to the Victory Fund, “Craig is the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota.” Craig is also the first openly gay mother in Congress. Craig is a strong advocate for affordable healthcare, education for all, and a strong voice for businesses within her community. This year she won her second term in the general election on November 3rd, 2020.
Sharice Davids is a Democrat who represents Kansas’ 3rd Congressional district, elected in 2019 and to hold the position to this day. She made history being elected in 2018 as the first openly LGBT Native American elected to the U.S Congress, the first openly gay LGBTQ member to be elected to the U.S. Congress from Kansas, and one of two Native Women elected to Congress. Davids is an advocate for making healthcare affordable and “fighting to limit the influence of special interests.”
Sean Patrick Maloney is a gay Democratic congressman who represents the 18th district of New York. He was elected back in 2013 and has served his district ever since. The congressman has been involved in creating numerous jobs by starting up his own high-tech startup company and being part of President Bill Clinton’s White House by balancing the budget and paying down the debt. Maloney, like Senator Sinema, is considered a moderate Democrat.
Chris Pappas is the gay democratic representative of New Hampshire’s first district. Elected back in 2019, Pappas advocates for making healthcare affordable, expanding healthcare, and approving of social services that give back to the community in which he lives. Pappas made history as the first openly gay person representing New Hampshire in Congress.
Mark William Pocan is the gay Democratic representative of Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional district since 2017. Prior, from 1999 to 2013 he served as a representative of the Wisconsin State Assembly, succeeding longtime friend and ally, Tammy Baldwin, when she was sworn into Congress. Pocan has been a long-standing political advocate for LGBT rights and progressive values on corrections reform, education funding, and fighting privatization schemes. The Congressman endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2020 election and voted for both articles of impeachment against President Trump.
Mark Takano has been the gay Democratic representative of the 41st district of California since 2013. Prior to politics, Congressman Takano taught in public schools for 23 years. Through college the Congressman was a member of the Republican Party whereafter he then became a member of the Democratic Party. Like Pocan, he is a staunch supporter of progressive policies, attacking for-profit colleges’ abusive practices and protecting veterans’ benefits.
Finally, we have our two newest members of congress, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, both making history as the first gay Black members of Congress.
Ritchie Torres is now one of two of the first openly Black gay men of Congress and serves as Democratic Representative of New York’s 15th district after winning in the general election in November 2020. Prior to becoming representative in Congress, Torres sat on New York’s City Council as councilmember representing the 15th district of New York City Council. At just the age of 25, Torres claimed victory in the general election and become both the youngest elected city official and the first openly gay public official in the Bronx. While not being a Justice Democrat like AOC, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, Torres has been hailed as a progressive voice to many. In an interview with The New Yorker, Torres went so far as to call himself an “independent progressive,” caring more for getting progressive policies passed more so than the “ongoing dispute within the Democratic Party.”
Mondaire Jones is now one of two of the first openly Black gay men of Congress and serves as the Democratic representative of New York’s 17th district. As a member of the Justice Democrats, Jones’ win in the 2020 election grows the squad’s numbers from four to eight. The other four new members being Cori Bush in Missouri’s 1st District, Marie Newman in Illinois’ 3rd district, and Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th district. Prior to Jones running for Congress, he worked in the United States Department of Justice during the presidency of Barack Obama, as well as a law clerk for Andrew L. Carter Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and for the Westchester County law department.