‘Rainbow wave’ of LGBTQ candidates run and win in 2020 election

8 mins read

Timothy R. Bussey, Kenyon College

More LGBTQ candidates ran for workplace in the United States in 2020 than ever earlier than – at least 1,006. That’s a 41% improve over the 2018 midterms, in keeping with the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

While an estimated 5% of the U.S. inhabitants identifies as lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender or queer, just 0.17% of elected officials throughout all ranges of the American authorities are LGBTQ.

Better political illustration might assist LGBTQ Americans preserve some of their hard-won rights, which have come underneath assault over the previous 4 years. Since 2016, the Trump administration has weakened trans-inclusive protections in schools, tried to take away LGBTQ protections in health care and proposed permitting homeless shelters to turn away transgender people.

Marriage equality, too, could also be underneath menace. In early October, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito prompt that the 2015 choice in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage authorized throughout the United States, should be overturned.

In brief, candidates and LGBTQ rights have been each on the poll in the 2020 election, both explicitly or implicitly. While many questions stay undecided at press time, right here’s the takeaway from 4 down-ballot races I’ve been following as a scholar of LGBTQ politics.


Democrat Sarah McBride made historical past on Tuesday when she won a state Senate seat in Delaware. In doing so, she’ll change into the United States’ highest-ranking transgender elected official and the first openly transgender person to serve in a state Senate anyplace in the nation. McBride defeated Republican Steve Washington.

Previously, Danica Roem, a Virginia Democrat who received a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, was the highest-ranking transgender person in elected office. Roem was re-elected in 2019.

Other transgender ladies, together with Taylor Smalls of Vermont and Stephanie Byers of Kansas, additionally received state-level races on Tuesday in notable victories.

Hawaii and South Dakota

At the beginning of this election cycle, solely three U.S. states – Hawaii, South Dakota and Mississippi – had no openly LGBTQ elected officials at any degree of authorities. This yr, candidates in Hawaii and South Dakota hoped to get their states off that checklist.

Headshot of Tam wearing a red lei
Rep.-elect Tam of Hawai’s twenty second district. Facebook

Democrat Jared Nieuwenhuis of South Dakota was unable to win a seat for state House District 25 to change into the state’s first openly LGBTQ elected official in the state Legislature.

However, in Hawaii, Adrian Tam – who upset a 14-year incumbent in the August Democratic major for the state House of Representatives – defeated Republican Nicholas Ochs, making him Hawaii’s only openly LGBTQ elected official.


One Georgia Senate race remained undecided on election night. The different – an uncommon race referred to as a “jungle primary” between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and 20 other candidates from various parties – has drawn nationwide consideration from LGBTQ advocates.

A political newcomer, Loeffler was appointed to her seat by Gov. Brian Kemp in late 2019 following the retirement of longtime Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. Neither Loeffler nor her prime opponent in the jungle major, Democratic contender the Rev. Raphael Warnock, acquired over 50% of the vote, so a runoff election will be held in the coming weeks.

This runoff shall be important for the LGBTQ neighborhood as a result of of Loeffler’s latest sponsorship of a Senate bill to ban transgender girls from enjoying faculty sports activities.

Loeffler speaks in front of a tree, wearing a beige pantsuit
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia should defend her seat once more in a runoff election. Lynsey Weatherspoon/Getty Images

Loeffler’s proposed laws is just like Idaho’s new “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” – a legislation that would require women who excel in athletics to “prove their gender” via a genital exam, DNA test or testosterone test. LGBTQ rights teams worry Loeffler’s invoice would enable faculties throughout the nation to conduct genital examinations of student athletes who’re presumed to be transgender.

Warnock, a pastor at Georgia’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, has made a strong public commitment to LGBTQ rights and condemned Loeffler’s legislation, saying in an interview with the LGBTQ outlet Project Q that “no one is free until we are all free.”

In the identical interview, Warnock expressed his assist for the Equality Act, proposed laws that will add LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections into federal legislation.

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Historic victories and challenges forward

LGBTQ Americans vote heavily Democratic. In 2008, John McCain received 27% of the LGBTQ vote whereas working for president in opposition to Barack Obama. In 2012, Mitt Romney received 22% of the LGBTQ vote. And in 2016, nationwide exit poll data of LGBTQ voters reveals that Donald Trump acquired roughly 14% of the LGBTQ vote.

Harvey Milk, the late San Francisco metropolis councilman, is often incorrectly cited as the primary brazenly LGBTQ elected official. That pioneer was truly Kathy Kozachenko, who at age 21 received a seat on the Ann Arbor City Council in Michigan in 1974.

Black-and-white photo of Kozachenko wearing a newsboy hat
Kathy Kozachenko was an out lesbian and a school scholar when she was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council. Human Rights Party records / Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

Nearly 50 years later, LGBTQ candidates have made historic strides in political representation. In 2017, there have been under 450 openly LGBTQ elected officials in the whole U.S. Over 150 LGBTQ candidates won elections on the federal, state and local levels in the 2018 midterm elections. Another “rainbow wave” got here in 2019, bringing the overall quantity of brazenly LGBTQ American elected officers to just under 700.

Social acceptance of LGBTQ people is rising too, with over 70% of Americans saying transgender folks ought to be shielded from discrimination, in keeping with polling by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, and the same share supporting marriage equality. That has translated into ever extra brazenly LGBTQ candidates working for workplace – and profitable.

Timothy R. Bussey, Associate Director for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Kenyon College

This article is republished from The Conversation underneath a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.