At least 678 openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) candidates will appear on ballots in the upcoming midterm elections across the United States, a historic number that comes as advocates say a flood of state laws has attacked gay and transgender rights. . .
According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, candidates running in the November general election were among the 1,065 prominent LGBTQ figures who launched elections in 2022.
Voters will head to the polls on November 8 to determine the partisan makeup of the US House of Representatives and Senate, as well as state officials and legislators.
Annise Parker, president of the Victory Fund, said the number of LGBTQ candidates in the general election, which represents an 18.1 percent increase over the 2020 election, creates the opportunity to “elect more LGBTQ people to office than ever before.”
“The bigots want us to stay home and be quiet, but their attacks are backfiring and instead a new wave of LGBTQ leaders are inspired to run for office,” she said in a statement. “Standing aside when our rights are being violated is not an option.”
Across the country, many LGBTQ candidates have been emboldened by a recent spate of bills viewed as anti-LGBTQ, and transgender rights in particular have been “used as an issue to mobilize voters in the Republican Party’s most conservative base in recent years,” said Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. According to Gabriel Magni, assistant professor of political science at the college.
“When we ask LGBTQ candidates why they are running for office, most say they feel an urgency to run to protect LGBTQ rights,” Magni told Al Jazeera.
“They know they need to be in office at all levels, including school boards, to make decisions about the potential disenfranchisement of children and trans youth,” Magny said.
Leading candidates include Democrats Maura Healy and Tina Kotek, who are running for governor in Massachusetts and Oregon, respectively, and could become the first openly gay state governors in US history.
Becca Belint is also set to become the first LGBTQ person and first woman to hold Vermont’s only congressional seat, while North Carolina, Oregon, Maryland and Illinois are among the states to elect their first LGBTQ candidates to Congress.
In California, former Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who immigrated to the United States from Peru as a child, is running to become the first LGTBQ immigrant in history to be elected to Congress. In Alaska, Andrew Gray is running to become the state’s first LGBTQ state legislator.
According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, at least 119 LGBTQ candidates ran for Congress in the midterms, 416 for state legislatures, 41 for state legislative offices and 412 for local positions and school boards.
In another political first in the country, two openly gay men from New York — Democrat Robert Zimmerman and Republican George Santos — are running for an open U.S. House seat. Nearly 90 percent of all LGBTQ candidates ran as Democrats in the midterms, and about 4.5 percent of LGBTQ candidates ran as Republicans, according to the Victory Fund.
In an interview with the Washington Blade in September, Zimmerman said his experiences as a gay man in the United States shaped his political ideology, while Santos said his sexual orientation had no bearing on issues Americans care about, including the economy and crime.
“It’s nice to see that everyone in this country has equal opportunities,” Santos told the news site, adding: “I think it’s a distraction, really, from the real issues that our country is suffering right now. I’d rather talk about my sexuality all day long than that.” likes to talk
We are less than a week away from Election Day. We want the LGBTQ community and our allies to show up at the polls #VoteWithPride! There is so much at stake for our community in this election, and if we use our power together, we can make a difference. https://t.co/ftGWlWBAP5
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) November 2, 2022
However, the surge of candidates comes amid a surge in largely Republican-backed state laws in recent years that advocates have said restrict LGBTQ rights.
That included 238 bills filed by state lawmakers in the first three months of 2022, according to an NBC News analysis of data maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union and the advocacy group Freedom for All Americans. That number represented a huge increase from 2018, when 41 bills were introduced. According to the analysis, at least 191 bills were introduced in 2021.
As of August, about 180 bills introduced in 2022 targeted the transgender community, according to the advocacy group GLAAD. Those bills generally seek to limit youth gender-affirming health services, which the American Academy of Pediatrics calls “medically necessary and appropriate” and in some cases “life-saving.” Other laws sought to prohibit transgender youth from playing on sports teams of the gender they identify with.
Jay and I got married on this day in 2015 #SCOTUS #obergefellvhodges. If Oergefell falls because of a 1998 AK constitutional amendment, our marriage will be extinguished. The concern is not academic. Clarence Thomas wants to retrial Obergefell. vote #AKelect #AKleg pic.twitter.com/HSGEcSXI2H
— Andrew Timothy Gray (@AndrewGrayAK) November 3, 2022
Other laws included Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” law, which prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender in the classroom. Four other states have passed similar laws, and the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization, has said it “erases young LGBTQ students” and runs counter to research showing that open discussion of LGBTQ issues leads to underreported suicide attempts. .
The urgency has been heightened amid fears that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade, which stripped federal abortion protections, could lead to a rollback of federal gay rights protections. In his opinion in the case, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Oergefell v Hodges, which federally legalized same-sex marriage, was among the few cases that should be reconsidered based on the reasoning used to overturn Roe.
The rulings, he wrote in the non-binding opinion, were “demonstrably erroneous.”
Meanwhile, voters who identify as LGBTQ are expected to make up an even larger percentage of the electorate in the coming years, rising from more than 11.3 percent nationwide in 2022 to 14 percent in 2030 and then to an estimated 18 percent by 2040. will The study (PDF) was released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) of Ohio and Bowling Green State University in October.
The trend is even more pronounced in several influential states, including Georgia, Texas and Arizona.
According to Magni, research has shown that in recent years, gay candidates have outperformed straight candidates in general elections, as have straight candidates.
“I think this is a big change,” he told Al Jazeera. “The conventional wisdom has long held that LGBTQ candidates will be penalized because moderate voters will not find it easy to support these candidates”.