Three years ago, when marriage equality finally arrived in all 50 states, there was a fear that those who had been motivated to donate their time and money during the string of victories leading up to the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, would turn away from activism as if the fight for full equality had just been won. It was a frightening prospect since we still had a lot of work ahead of us – LGBTQ people can still be fired, denied housing, or be turned away from stores, restaurants, and other public accommodations in roughly 30 states.
There was hope that another Democratic president would be able to finish the job that President Obama started, but we ended up with Trump. With the support of his merry band of bigots, he has stacked the courts with anti-equality judges, announced his intent to strip trans people of their identity and ban them from serving in the military, made nice with foreign regimes that persecute queer people, gutted protections for trans kids in schools, decided not to count us in the census, signed an executive order empowering his administration to create a licenses-to-discriminate in agencies across the federal government… I could go on.
This dizzying deluge of hate sparked a revolt, especially from suburban women who consider support for equality to be a litmus test for the character of the politicians seeking their vote. Not only has Trump turned them off from the Republican party, his election and actions in office have caused women across the country to run for office at all levels. They are joined by a record number of LGBTQ candidates – more than 400 in total – who are part of a growing Rainbow Wave that could result in the victory of a host of new out public officials from local city councils and school boards to state legislatures and the governorships of several states where voters are poised to re-elect an out bisexual woman in Kate Brown of Oregon, and make history with the election of an out gay man in Colorado’s Jared Polis, an out lesbian in Lupe Valdez of Texas, and an out trans woman in Vermont’s Christine Hallquist.
Nowhere will the presence of these newly inspired leaders be felt more profoundly than the fight for control of the U.S. House of Representatives where Democrats must win 23 seats held by Republicans – a feat that looks more and more like a real possibility. Such a stunning rebuke of President Trump and the forces of intolerance that have fueled his administration, will be powered in large part by the success of LGBTQ congressional candidates. The LGBTQ Victory Fund has endorsed seven of these leading challengers and on election night they could account for nearly one-third of the total needed for Democrats to take the majority. All told, the LGBTQ congressional caucus could double in size over night – especially with the re-election of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who could be joined by Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema in the U.S. Senate.
Many of these 2018 hopefuls come from places you might not expect. There’s Sharice Davids (KS-02), a lesbian and Native American woman running for Congress in dark red Kansas. She could be joined by Katie Hill (CA-25), a bisexual woman running in the once reliably conservative exurbs of Los Angeles County. There’s also Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23) who could become the first out lesbian to represent Texas in the Congress as well as midwestern businesswoman Angie Craig (MN-2) from Minnesota and foreign policy expert Lauren Baer (FL-18) who could go on to hold the same distinction in their respective states. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire Chris Pappas (NH-2) is hoping to become his state’s first openly gay member of Congress in a seat currently held by a retiring Democrat.
Our rights are at stake in this election. A new Democratic majority powered by the election of a host of new LGBTQ members of Congress will send a resounding message to the White House that its anti-equality agenda should be abandoned.
If you’re reading this, chances are you support equality and already plan on voting. That is not enough. Amplify your voice. Make sure every single one of your supportive friends and family members are also voting and have a plan to vote. These next two weeks – it’s okay to talk politics! If you live in one of the critical districts I mentioned earlier, the forces of change need your help. You literally need bring people to the polls. Have an early vote party. Go to an early vote center with your friends and then do brunch. If you can’t vote early, meet some friends for coffee and then go vote before work on Election Day. When you’re done, text other friends, ask if they have voted, and offer to bring those who haven’t to the polls.
Don’t wake up on Wednesday, November 7 wishing you had done more. Do what you can now and President Trump’s early morning tweets will read like a kindergartner blaming everyone but himself for his massive loss. Sit this one out, and Trump’s tweets will boast about Republicans holding onto Congress because the American people support his anti-equality, anti-immigrant, and anti-woman agenda.
The change we all want can’t be made without you. So, what are you waiting for? Get to work.
CHRISTOPHER MASSICOTTE is a partner at the Democratic digital technology firm DSPolitical and campaign board co-chair of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.