The U.S. House of Representatives looks to have a new but still strongly pro-LGBTQ+ group of Democratic leaders in its next session.
Longtime equality champions Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and James Clyburn have announced they’re stepping down as speaker, majority leader, and majority whip, respectively. With the Democrats being in the minority in the next Congress and therefore not having the speakership, those bidding to be the top three Dem leaders are Hakeem Jeffries as minority leader, Katherine Clark as minority whip, and Pete Aguilar as caucus leader. All have strings of perfect 100 scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. The Democratic caucus will vote on its leaders November 30 and December 1.
Jeffries would be the first Black man to be a top party leader in either the House or Senate. A House member since 2013, he represents New York’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes much of Brooklyn and part of Queens. He is currently chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
He has supported the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act, among other pro-LGBTQ+ bills, and has spoken out about the need to keep rights from being taken away from the Supreme Court. In a July press conference, a few weeks after the court overturned the abortion rights guarantee of Roe v. Wade, he cited Democratic efforts to “defend the freedoms that have long been assumed to be permanent here in America but which a radical, right-wing Supreme Court majority has either taken away, in the form of the freedom of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions, or is on the verge of taking away, as it relates to family planning and the right to marry who you want to marry.”
He and Clark have both called for an increase in the number of gender-neutral restrooms on Capitol Hill. “All employees, interns, and visitors should have access to safe and comfortable restrooms. For members of the transgender, gender nonconforming and disability communities, that often means the availability of single stall or single-occupancy restrooms,” they wrote in a 2021 letter to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House administration committee.
Clark represents the Fifth Congressional District of Massachusetts, which encompasses several suburbs of Boston. She was first elected in a special election in 2013 and is now assistant speaker. She likewise has supported all pro-LGBTQ+ legislation that has come before her.
“During LGBTQ+ History Month, we reflect on our nation’s progress toward true equality and recognize the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans who fought to create a more inclusive and just America,” she said in an October statement. “We affirm that LGBTQ+ history is American history and stand united against the MAGA Republican assault on freedom. We must urgently enact the Equality and Respect for Marriage Acts to protect the rights of all Americans and continue our work of building a nation where all are welcome.”
Aguilar represents a California district centered on San Bernardino County, in the southern part of the state. He has recently had a high profile as a member of the committee investigating the insurrection of January 6, 2021. He is currently vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and is the highest-ranking Latino in Congress.
He too is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ+ equality. This week he sent out a tweet lauding the advancement of the Respect for Marriage Act. The act has already passed the House and got a boost in the Senate Wednesday, although the Senate has yet to take final action.
(Above image: From left: Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar)