From left: Robert Garcia, Toni Atkins, Ricardo Lara, Evan Low, Mark Takano, and Scott Wiener
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect out officials, is urging California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint an out LGBTQ+ lawmaker to Kamala Harris’s seat representing the state in the U.S. Senate when she becomes vice president in January.
Since Harris was elected in the middle of her Senate term, it’s up to the governor to appoint her replacement. His choice will then have to run for reelection in two years after the term concludes.
In an open letter posted in its website, Victory Fund specifically mentions Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, California Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Assemblymember Evan Low, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, and California Sen. Scott Wiener.
“We need more qualified LGBTQ voices at all levels of government — including in the U.S. Senate,” the letter reads. “Donald Trump spent four years stoking fears about our community and worked to strip hard-won gains.”
Victory Fund goes on to say, “Despite a thriving LGBTQ community in California and the largest Congressional delegation in the nation with 53 members, the state has just one openly LGBTQ member in the U.S. Congress.” The group adds that “nationally, just 0.17 percent of all elected positions are held by openly LGBTQ people and just 127 of them serve in your state. As you know, this severe underrepresentation has devastating consequences for our community as legislation and policies too often ignore or actively harm our well-being.”
Currently, there are only two out LGBTQ+ members of the U.S. Senate, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema. There has never been a male U.S. senator from the community.
The letter is signed by Annise Parker, former mayor of Houston and the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. The organization crafted the letter in conjunction with Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute, a related organization that provides training and professional development to programs to LGBTQ+ people with political ambitions, is calling for President-elect Joe Biden to appoint an out Cabinet member. It made the call through its Presidential Appointments Initiative, a coalition of 32 LGBTQ+ and allied organizations. It “will put forward hundreds of exemplary LGBTQ candidates for positions throughout the next administration and advocate for their consideration,” according to a press release. “It aims to help the Biden transition team in creating the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in U.S. history.”
There has never been a Senate-confirmed out LGBTQ+ Cabinet member. Richard Grenell, a gay man, was acting director of national intelligence, a Cabinet-level position, for three months under Trump, but the appointment was temporary and did not require Senate confirmation.
“Members of Joe Biden’s Cabinet will have tremendous influence over the policies and direction of the next administration, so it is essential an LGBTQ voice is at the table,” Parker said in the press release. “Allies are invaluable, but the impact of policies on LGBTQ lives is not always fully understood by someone outside our community. An LGBTQ Cabinet appointment will ensure our community is part of decision-making at the highest levels and will also be a lasting piece of Joe Biden’s legacy on LGBTQ equality. At no time in American history has an LGBTQ person been confirmed by the Senate for a Cabinet-level position. It would be a powerful moment and a testament to our community’s place in the nation.”
“Joe Biden is committed to building an administration that reflects the diversity of America and we stand ready to help him,” added Claire Lucas, chair of the Victory Institute board of directors. “The challenges facing the new administration are enormous — from tackling the pandemic to reviving the economy to ensuring our relationships around the globe are restored. Fortunately, there are LGBTQ people qualified and ready to lead in confronting all those challenges both at home and abroad. Biden can build the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in history while assembling a team that can move America forward.”
The Victory Institute has already called on Biden to nominate an out Supreme Court justice, which would be a first; to appoint transgender people as well as women and people of color from the LGBTQ+ population as ambassadors, which would also be firsts; and to generally assure that LGBTQ+ people receive equitable representation among presidential appointees and reflect the full diversity of the community.