Trans politician gets engaged outside White House as LGBTQ+ history is made: ‘The perfect moment’

Taylor Small

After travelling to Washington, DC to celebrate the signing of the Respect For Marriage Act, a trans legislator got engaged in the rainbow glow of the White House.

Taylor Small, the first-ever out trans person to be elected to the Vermont state legislature, went to the nation’s capital to attend the signing ceremony for the Act with her partner of four years, Carsen Russell.

To mark the occasion, the Biden administration had the White House illuminated in rainbows.

As the ceremony came to a close Russell asked Small if she wanted to take a photo. He then got down on one knee. 

In a joint interview with Small, Russell told NBC News: “I was just like, ‘I want to spend my life with you, and will you marry me?”.

Small said she said yes “immediately” and couldn’t taken her glove off fast enough. 

You may like to watch

“It was really just the perfect backdrop and the perfect moment for that celebration.”

Response to their engagement has been overwhelming positive, with one message from a local community member standing out to Small. 

She recalled: “I had a young trans woman reach out and say: ‘Your engagement is so powerful, because it validated that I can have a similar future, that me having a loving relationship can happen, that I can move into leadership positions just like you,’ and that is the message I really want to pass along — that my experiences are not unique.”

Russell had planned to propose to Small at the end of December at the Vermont state capitol, but after Small received an invite to the signing of the Respect For Marriage Act – which protects same-sex and interracial marriage – he knew he had to change his plans. 

In order to hide the ring from his wife-to-be, Russell put it on his finger under his glove to go through security. Then, when Small wasn’t paying attention, he popped it back in the box and in his pocket. 

The Respect For Marriage Act repeals legislation which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. If the Supreme Court ever overturned the decision which made equal marriage the law of the land, the act would protect couples by ensuring states recognise existing marriages, but would not force them to issue new marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Small said the Act is “just a stepping stone for the larger work that needs to be done on cementing LGBTQ rights on both the state and federal level”.

Taylor Small
Taylor Small. (Taylor Small/ Facebook)

“It’s amazing to know that still, to this day, we don’t have federal protections for LGBTQ people, when it comes to credit, when it comes to public accommodations, and that, only in 2020 did we get employment protections, which feel like they might be on the chopping block given our very conservative Supreme Court and the precedents that they are setting forward,” she said. 

“I think we can take a moment to celebrate as we did on Tuesday, but I know both here in Vermont and nationally, that celebration leads to even more action that needs to be taken.”

Small, who currently works as the director of the health and wellness programme at Pride Center of Vermont, has focused her efforts on championing LGBTQ+ rights since taking office in 2020. 

She has so far left a successful effort to ban the “gay/trans panic defense”, which gave defendants accused of homicide the change to receive a lesser sentence by saying they panicked after finding out the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

She has also championed a bill that makes it easier for people to update the gender marker on their both certificates. 

Please login or register to comment on this story.