After the crucial election cycle that the U.S. is still struggling to cope with, Congress’s next session is likely to include 11 openly LGBTQ members — nine representatives of the House of Representatives and two senators — the largest number in the country’s history.
In New York, Democrats Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones won their House elections, becoming the first two Black gay candidates elected to Congress.
Jones told NBC News he is excited about serving alongside Torres.
“He’s a tremendous candidate and a good friend,” he said. “This is a chance for us to be the role model we looked for growing up — for queer youth and especially queer youth of color.”
Torres, a Bronx native who identifies as Afro Latinx, is also the first LGBTQ congressperson from New York City.
“Most would have thought New York City’s first LGBTQ member of Congress would be from Chelsea or Greenwich Village or Hell’s Kitchen, but the Bronx beat them to it,” said Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect openly LGBTQ candidates at all levels of government.
Torres and Jones “shattered a rainbow ceiling,” Parker said, adding that they will bring new and vital perspectives to Congress.
“As our nation grapples with racism, police brutality and a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color and LGBTQ people, these are the voices that can pull us from the brink and toward a more united and fair society,” she said.
These two are joined by six LGBTQ+ candidates who ran for Congress on Tuesday, November 3, among them: David Cicilline (Rhode Island), Chris Pappas (New Hampshire), Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), Angie Craig (Minnesota), and Mark Takano (California) for the U.S. House of Representatives; Sharice Davids of Kansas, the first LGBTQ+ Native American in Congress, also won re-election, and Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema will be the only members of the Senate.
“For too long, particularly LGBTQ people of color have been pushed to the sidelines and stripped of our voice,” Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement about the incoming class. “But today we reclaim our power and declare ourselves not only worthy but indeed required representatives in the halls of Congress.” The wins are a part of a broader phenomenon that has been dubbed the latest “rainbow wave.”