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Julie Johnson Running to Be Texas's First Out Member of Congress

Julie Johnson Running to Be Texas's First Out Member of Congress

Texas Rep. Julie Johnson

Johnson, currently a Texas state legislator, is so far the front-runner in the 32nd Congressional District.

There’s a good chance that Texas could elect a lesbian to the U.S. House of Representatives next year.

Democrat Julie Johnson, currently a member of the Texas House, is “the early front-runner” in the race in Texas’s 32nd Congressional District, The Hill reports. The current congressman, Colin Allred, is vacating the seat to run for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination; he hopes to challenge far-right Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. The 32nd District, which includes parts of Dallas and nearby communities, is solidly Democratic.

Johnson would not only be the first out LGBTQ+ member of Congress elected from Texas; she would be the first elected from the Deep South overall.

“To be the first one from Texas — to be the first one from any Southern state, where so much of this hate genesis is — is a clear policy statement and a political statement from voters that, ‘No, we don’t support these initiatives, and we value our LGBT members who are smart and talented and work hard for us,’” she told The Hill.

Texas and other Southern states have accounted for a large share of the anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced this year, which saw a record number, more than 500, proposed nationwide. Texas did pass a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and expand its trans-exclusionary sports law, but pro-equality legislators managed to block numerous other bills. At least 53 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in the Lone Star State, but 90 percent of them failed to become law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Johnson said relationships that cut across party lines helped stop much of the bad legislation. In 2019, her first year in the Texas House, her wife, Susan Moster, joined the Legislative Ladies Club, a group for the wives and husbands of Texas House members. Moster was the first same-sex spouse invited. Some Republican men ended up telling Johnson, “My wife just loves your wife, and that means you and I have to be friends,” the lawmaker recalled.

Johnson, a founding member of the Texas legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus, has been able to advance some progressive bills as well as stop repressive ones. This year, at least six bills she sponsored passed and were signed into law, on issues including health care expansion and criminal justice reform.

“I’m willing to work with any member on good policy,” she told The Hill. “Not all Democrats author good bills, and not all Republicans author bad bills.” But when she was first elected in 2018, she defeated an author of a bad bill, Republican Matt Rinaldi, who was behind an anti-trans “bathroom bill” that failed to pass.

Johnson, who announced her candidacy for Congress last month, already has the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, and Equality PAC. The latter is the political action arm of the Congressional Equality Caucus, and several individual members of the caucus — Mark Takano of California, Becca Balint of Vermont, and Ritchie Torres of New York — have endorsed her as well.

So far four other Democrats have entered the 32nd District race and just one Republican, according to Ballotpedia. The Democrats include one other member of the LGBTQ+ community, trans woman Callie Butcher, who is president of the Dallas LGBT Bar Association.

In announcing the endorsement of Johnson in June, Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker called her “an experienced policymaker with a proven track record of delivering results for all Texans. From improving public education to fighting for LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, we know she will bring the same skills and values that have made her so successful in the Texas legislature to Congress. Texas has been ground zero for so much anti-LGBTQ hate, which is why Julie’s groundbreaking campaign is a clear rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ community and our allies.”

The primary election is March 5.

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