The Rainbow Wave: A 2022 LGBTQ+ Midterm Round Up

The Midterm Elections presented Americans with crucial issues to decide on and important offices to fill. Many of these issues deeply impact LGBTQ+ people, and particularly trans and non-binary (TNB) youth. In weeks leading up to the Midterms, many campaigns prominently featured anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. For example, targeted ads from anti-LGBTQ+ groups claimed that candidates who support gender-affirming care are “pushing radical gender experiments on children.” While some well-known anti-LGBTQ+ political figures were re-elected, overall, Americans did not submit to the anti-LGBTQ+ fearmongering. Many prominent candidates running on anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans platforms failed to resonate with voters. This anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric only encouraged an already resilient population to push harder to run for office in order to create the safe, affirming communities that all people deserve.

Representation matters: The midterms were a success for the LGBTQ+ candidates. According to Victory Fund, at least 678 openly LGBTQ+ candidates were on the ballot for November’s midterms, up from 574 in 2020. A record-breaking number of TNB candidates were elected, including Zooey Zephyr, the first openly trans person in the Montana’s House of Representatives who won with almost 80% of the votes. SJ Howell, who identifies as non-binary, also won their historic seat on Montana’s House of Representatives. Several LGBTQ+ candidates also had historic victories. In New Hampshire, James Roesener became the first out transgender man elected to a state legislature in U.S. history. Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Tina Kotek of Oregon became the first lesbian governors elected in the United States. In California, Robert Garcia was elected to U.S. Congress, making him the first out LGBTQ+ immigrant to hold the seat.

In Illinois, 35 LGBTQ+ candidates ran for election in 2022. Illinois now has more LGBTQ+ elected officials than ever before, from 50 in 2020 to 54 in 2022. Eric Sorensen won a seat in the U.S. Congress, making him the first LGBTQ+ member of Congress from Illinois. His presence means that the 118th U.S. Congress will have 13 out LGBTQ+ members, the most LGBTQ+ representation ever seen at this level of government. It is essential for the voices and experiences of LGBTQ+ people to be represented at all levels of government.

LGBTQ+ equality and protections for trans youth were a focal point for many candidates across the nation, as LGBTQ+ rights have been up for debate recently in many legislatures. In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker won re-election. He shared in his victory speech his commitment to public health equity and human rights: “We reaffirm what we are fighting for access to healthcare that not only keeps you alive but keeps you healthy… A world where… AIDS can be eradicated… we will never surrender in the battle against hate, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and antisemitism.” In Maryland, Wes Moore was elected governor, making him the state’s first Black governor. He was an advocate for the newly passed Inclusive Schools Act and is a strong supporter of the proposed Trans Health Equity Act in Maryland. He has previously stated, “for anyone who wants to take away rights… (from) our LGBTQ+ community here in the state of Maryland, you’ll have to go through me first, because it is something that I will not tolerate nor condone.”

Reproductive freedom has been another issue concerning millions of LGBTQ+ people since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. States across the nation took action to protect reproductive freedom. In Illinois, Liz Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien were elected to the state Supreme Court – making the Court a 5-2 majority supporting reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights. Additionally, California, Vermont, and Michigan residents approved ballot measures codifying abortion rights in their state constitutions, while voters in Montana and Kentucky rejected measures that would have restricted access to reproductive care.

Protections in the workplace were voted into the Illinois constitution with the Worker’s Rights Amendment. Illinois is the first state to preemptively oppose “right to work” laws and the fourth state in the nation to enshrine workers collective bargaining rights in its constitution. This is especially beneficial for LGBTQ+ workers, as it will foster greater protections against workplace discrimination. 

Despite the recent successes, LGBTQ+ people are severely underrepresented in the American political landscape. The recent Rainbow Wave is proof that LGBTQ+ people are capable leaders, change agents, and critical representation to our youth. Yet, studies have shown that LGBTQ+ people feel they are not qualified to seek office which is not often the case. If you are interested in learning more about how you or someone you know can run for elected office, check out the LGBTQ Victory Fund for resources and support!

To check up on how your elected officials have voted on LGBTQ+ issues, check out 117th Congress Score Card by the Human Rights Campaign

Tags: Advocacy


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