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Meet Sean Patrick Maloney, the Gay Congressman Fighting Off a GOP House

Meet Sean Patrick Maloney, the Gay Congressman Fighting Off a GOP House

Sean Patrick Maloney

The congressman from New York's Hudson Valley is eyeing the midterms at a time of unrest over reproductive freedom, mass shootings, and right-wing attacks on LGBTQ+ people. 

If anyone stands between Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy being anointed as speaker, it's Sean Patrick Maloney. Maloney, a 56-year-old gay congressman from New York's Hudson Valley, chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is tasked with keeping Nancy Pelosi or another Democrat as speaker of the House and second in line to the presidency. The pressure on Maloney is intense as the GOP members of the House seek to thwart President Joe Biden's already imperiled agenda, and if that party gains a majority, it would only become worse. Then there are the politically motivated investigations and potential sham impeachment proceedings that a Republican majority could undertake. The Democrats are already operating with just a slim advantage, meaning a loss of a dozen or so seats could cost them half of Congress.

Inflation, gun violence, the environment, and a potential war with Russia are at the top of many Americans' minds, but for LGBTQ+ voters, their marriages, educations, and job opportunities are directly on the line, Maloney warns. Look only at the conservative Supreme Court throwing away 50 years of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade to see where the GOP will lead us, he said ahead of the ruling to overturn it that came down on June 24.

Nancy Pelosi (l); Sean Patrick Maloney (r)

"I'm laser-focused on protecting the majority in the House to guarantee the rights and equalities of the LGBT community and so many Americans who are right now facing an unprecedented assault from an extreme Republican Party overturning a half-century of rights under the Constitution," Maloney says. "And it won't stop with reproductive freedom. The course the Republican Party is on will inevitably collide with the rights and freedoms the LGBT community has fought so hard to secure. We better wake up to the threat. It's real."

The conventional wisdom of Beltway watchers is that the Republicans will walk away with the midterms thanks to unease over rising prices at the grocery store and gas station as well as the historic trend that midterms benefit the political party not in control of the White House. Maloney's eyes are open, but he hopes to shake voters into action in a year that has seen Roe overturned, a spike in mass shootings, and a GOP-led onslaught against LGBTQ+ rights.

"[The midterms] are not predetermined; in not any way hopeless," he says, "but everybody needs to fight."

He faced intra-party criticism when many assumed he was running against a fellow gay congressman, Mondaire Jones, after a judge scrambled New York congressional districts (Jones is now running in a different district, while Maloney is running in a reconfigured 17th Congressional District). But in terms of cash, Maloney is delivering. The DCCC raised $12 million in April, a record for the month, and began May debt-free and with $115 million in the bank for the midterm races. Those numbers beat the House Republican campaign arm, which brought in $8.7 million in April and finished with $96.5 million on hand.

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It's not just money Maloney is up against but cynicism among Democratic voters who are frustrated by a lack of progress on the aforementioned issues. While he understands the sentiment and obliquely lays blame on centrist Democratic senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- the latter of whom is a member of the LGBTQ+ community -- he says creating despair is the Republicans' point.

"If people get angry at their friends or engage in some circular firing squad, we will only strengthen the people who hate us," he says.

As a powerful congressman married to a man and parenting three kids of differing races, Maloney himself is a high-profile target of homophobes. He says the personal and the political often mix for him.

Sean Patrick Maloney

"[Being a gay father] deprives me of any illusion that my family fits in the world the Republican Party wants to create," he says. "We're not going to have our rights. My kids aren't going to be equal. But it also fills me with hope that this country in my lifetime has made room for families like mine because so many people work for it, and we built a coalition that includes partners and allies. My family keeps me focused on the danger we face, but it is also a source of great hope that the country can catch up to us."

This story is part of The Advocate's 2022 Advocacy and Politics issue, which is out on newsstands July 12, 2022. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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