Since the moment Donald Trump and Mike Pence set foot in the Oval Office, Americans across the nation have faced a deluge of attacks on our most fundamental rights and values. This has been especially true for LGBTQ people. Just last week, we learned that the Trump-Pence administration had been secretly working to erase transgender people from federal nondiscrimination protections.
But while this administration's attacks have been as relentless as they have been vicious, they have sparked a historic wave of engagement -- including a surge in openly LGBTQ candidates. From coast to coast, in red, blue, and purple states alike, LGBTQ people are saying "enough," turning out in droves to vote, and running for office themselves.
The LGBTQ community is fortunate to have many stalwart allies who have made equality a priority of public policy. But we also know the importance of LGBTQ representation at the local, state, and federal levels and in the leadership of Congress and on committees. We have seen firsthand how invaluable it is to have LGBTQ people representing our own community in legislatures, leadership, and governorships across the country.
As Sen. Tammy Baldwin has said, "If you're not in the room, the conversation is about you. If you're in the room, the conversation is with you."
True representation means being in the room. And it means having lawmakers who reflect our nation's full diversity. Today, there are more than 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters in this country. And yet, only 0.1 percent of elected officials nationwide are openly LGBTQ, and we hold zero seats in 13 state legislatures.
This November, we have an opportunity to increase those numbers dramatically.
In Wisconsin, the first out member of the U.S. Senate, Tammy Baldwin, is running for reelection, and she could soon be joined in the upper chamber by Kyrsten Sinema, a member of the House of Representatives who is running to become the first out bisexual member of the Senate.
In key and crucial congressional races, we are seeing a flood of qualified LGBTQ candidates who have the potential to remake the makeup of the House, including Lauren Baer in Florida, Lorie Burch in Texas, Angie Craig in Minnesota, Sharice Davids in Kansas, Katie Hill in California, Rick Neal in Ohio, Gina Ortiz Jones in Texas, and Chris Pappas in New Hampshire.
And at the state level, the first bisexual governor in history, Kate Brown, is running for reelection in Oregon. In Vermont, Christine Hallquist in running to make history as the first out transgender governor in history. In Colorado, out gay man Jared Polis is running for governor, and in Texas, out lesbian Lupe Valdez is running for governor.
In all of these races, these candidates are running campaigns grounded in treating all Americans with dignity and respect, while advancing equality for the most marginalized among us.
With this administration showing no signs of relenting in undermining our most fundamental rights at every turn, it is imperative that we have elected officials -- at both the state and the federal level -- who will work to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
In Congress, that means electing a pro-equality majority that will pass the Equality Act into law, ensuring that all LGBTQ people -- regardless of which state they call home -- are protected from discrimination under our nation's longstanding civil rights laws.
The need to increase LGBTQ representation in Congress is clear. As HRC's most recent Congressional Scorecard illustrates, Congress has done little to nothing to hold this administration accountable, while doing a great deal to undermine the rights of the most vulnerable members of our community. That's exactly why the Human Rights Campaign has deployed more than 150 staff to crucial priority races across the country and Equality PAC has spent millions of dollars to elect a pro-LGTBQ majority. That's why organizations like the Victory Fund are helping a record number of openly LGBTQ candidates in order to create a rainbow wave this year. And it's why we need every LGBTQ person and ally to ensure they vote for leaders who will move our nation forward.
On Election Day in races nationwide, we must elect lawmakers who will not only fight for us but who will represent the full diversity of our nation.
CHAD GRIFFIN is president of the Human Rights Campaign. DAVID CICILLINE is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Rhode Island's First Congressional District.