Barring an unlikely revolt from the Electoral College next week, Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as president of the United States in January. This was not how Washington's queer elite thought things would go down this year.
"Right now, we thought we'd be scurrying to fill jobs in the [Clinton] administration," Victory Institute president Aisha Moodie-Mills said Friday, in the midst of the annual Victory Institute International LGBT Leaders Conference, the largest ever gathering of out elected officials.
The Victory Fund — which the Institute operates under — works to elect LGBT people to public office, and this election cycle was a mixed bag of success and failure; 86 of 135 Victory-endorsed candidates won their races, including Oregon's bisexual governor, Kate Brown, and Carlos Guillermo Smith, who became the first openly LGBT Latino elected to the Florida state legislature. Also, all six current LGBT congressional representatives were reelected November 8, five of whom were in attendance at the leaders conference.
Trump's victory cast an even heavier pall over the conference, especially as his rabidly anti-LGBT cabinet picks came into focus.
"Every single person and every single policy idea that's coming from the Trump administration has shown there is no step forward with them," Moodie-Mills said, in regard to working with the president-elect on LGBT issues. "I'm personally not optimistic they're prioritizing us in any way."
Moodie-Mills said she was "dismayed" by homophobic, transphobic Cabinet nominees like Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and physician Ben Carson as head of housing and urban development. She struck an aggressive stance against such people, saying, "We're prepared to call out the bad actors who are put forth. That's a role we have to play."
Approving Trump's picks lies in the hands of the Republican-controlled Senate. When asked if Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — the Senate's first and only out LGBT person — believes it's possible that GOP colleagues would object to hard-line right-wingers like Sessions, Moodie-Mills demurred. In a closed-door discussion at the conference, people such as Baldwin, Army Secretary Eric Fanning, and Vietnam ambassador Ted Osius discussed how they would fight the anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant stances of Trump and his influential, homophobic vice president, Mike Pence.
While Moodie-Mills isn't discussing any grand strategy yet, she did emphasize they intend to play defense at the state and local levels by encouraging mayors and governors to push for administrative and executive actions that could guard against anti-trans "bathroom" bills or antigay "religious freedom" legislation.
The organization is also not abandoning its core mission — electing more LGBT people in every state and every legislative body.
"We're recruiting more people to run for office in states that we're underrepresented," Moodie-Mills said. "There are a number of states with no LGBT people in their state house at all."