Record number of LGBT+ people running for office in the US, but queer lawmakers are still ‘severely underrepresented’

Washington state LGBT+ political office

A record number of LGBT+ people are running for office this year in the US, but campaigners warned that queer lawmakers are still “severely underrepresented”.

The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which is “dedicated to elevating openly LGBTQ leaders who can further equality at all levels of government”, released its Out For America report on Thursday, July 16.

The report showed that the number of openly LGBT+ US elected officials has more than doubled in the past four years.

There are currently 843 LGBT+ people across all levels of US government, compared to just 417 in 2016. In 2020, there will be 850 openly queer lawmakers running for office.

In the past year alone, there has been a 21 percent increase in LGBT+ elected officials, a 53 percent increase in bisexual elected officials and a 40 percent increase in trans women elected officials.

But with LGBT+ people making up at least 4.5 percent of the US population and just 0.17 percent of the 519,682 US elected positions, LGBTQ Victory Institute president Annise Parker warned that queer people are still “severely underrepresented at every level of government”.

According to the report, to achieve equitable representation, 22,544 more LGBT+ people would have to be elected to public office.

Parker added: “We know that when LGBTQ people are in elected office and in the halls of power, they change the hearts and minds of their colleagues and it leads to more inclusive legislation.”

The split between the two major US political parties is striking – there are currently 672 elected LGBT+ Democratics, and just 23 queer Republican officials.

Ruben Gonzales, the organisation’s vice president, said: “Over the past year, LGBTQ elected officials have been on the frontlines — leading efforts to end racism, blocking bills targeting the trans community and passing legislation that moves equality forward for our community.

“Allies are important, but LGBTQ representation in the halls of power is critical to the success of our movement.”

In a column for the LGBTQ Victory Institute this year, Kathy Kozachenko, who made history as the first openly gay person elected to political office in the US in 1974, urged more LGBT+ people to run for public office.

“We need you to run for office and be the next historic first,” she said.

“We’ve seen that we cannot be complacent, that we need even more LGBTQ candidates to run. LGBTQ candidates from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds, with diverse perspectives.

“We need more LGBTQ candidates of color, more trans candidates, more womxn candidates, more LGBTQ immigrant candidates, more intersex candidates, more LGBTQ candidates with bold ideas who will keep pushing our movement forward.”