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Number of LGBTQ+ Elected Officials at Record High — But Many More Needed

Number of LGBTQ+ Elected Officials at Record High — But Many More Needed

Leigh Finke, Tina Kotek, and Erick Russell

LGBTQ+ Americans are still far from equitable representation in public office, says a new report from the Victory Institute.

The number of out LGBTQ+ elected officials in the U.S. increased in the past year, but the community is still far from proportional representation, says a new report from the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute.

Between June 2022 and May 2023, LGBTQ+ elected officials increased by 13.6 percent, with 1,185 currently serving, according to Victory Institute’s 2023 “Out for America” report, released Thursday. But that’s only 0.23 percent of U.S. elected officials, meaning 36,232 more LGBTQ+ people must be elected to achieve equitable representation.

Still, the numbers are evidence of progress, the group said.

“From school boards to state legislatures to Congress, LGBTQ+ political power continues to grow across the country,” Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker said in the report. “LGBTQ+ leaders are our best firewall against the homophobia and transphobia sweeping our communities.”

There are 226 LGBTQ+ state legislators currently serving in the U.S., the most ever and an increase of 18 percent since 2022. Vermont has the most out LGBTQ+ state legislators in the country with 14, while Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia all have the fewest with zero each. Idaho and Mississippi have no out officials at any level.

There are 124 LGBTQ+ school board members in office, an increase of 37 percent since 2022. Three out governors are serving, the most ever and up from two in 2022.

Diversity of out officials has stepped up in the past year. LGBTQ+ elected officials of color increased by 23.2 percent in the last year, while white LGBTQ+ elected officials increased by 9 percent. The number of LGBTQ+ elected officials of Middle Eastern or Arab American heritage more than doubled. Latinx LGBTQ+ officials increased by 27 percent, compared to 19 percent for Asian American Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ officials and 17 percent for Black LGBTQ+ officials.

Transgender and nonbinary LGBTQ+ elected officials increased at a significantly higher rate than cisgender LGBQ elected officials (by 24 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively). Now transgender and nonbinary elected officials account for 8.1 percent of all LGBTQ+ people in office, up from 6.9 percent in June 2022. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have trans elected officials, and 14 states have nonbinary ones. There are no known intersex people in public office.

There was a significant growth in the number of pansexual and bisexual elected officials, with a 65 percent and 34 percent increase respectively.

Still, to achieve equitable representation, the U.S. must elect at least one more out governor; 16 more LGBTQ+ people to other statewide executive positions; five more as U.S. senators; 20 more as U.S. House members; 319 more as state legislators; hundreds more as mayors; thousands more as school board members and judges; and more than 15,000 to other local offices.

Out officials are making a difference in the states they serve when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Minnesota state Rep. Leigh Finke, who is trans, played a major role in passing legislation that made the state a sanctuary for trans youth seeking gender-affirming care that they can’t get in their home states. U.S. Reps. Becca Balint, a lesbian, and Robert Garcia, a gay man, both just elected last year, have been speaking out against anti-LGBTQ+ forces in Congress.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a gay man serving his second term, has signed bills into law further protecting the rights to abortion and gender-affirming care in his state. Tammy Baldwin, one of two out U.S. senators and the only lesbian one, was a leader in the effort that led to passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, writing marriage equality into federal law. California Assemblymember Evan Low and Sen. Scott Wiener, both gay men, have introduced a state constitutional amendment to protect marriage equality there.

“As LGBTQ+ elected officials stand up and speak out on behalf of all of us, they are also inspiring countless LGBTQ+ leaders to consider running for office themselves,” Parker said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the LGBTQ+ community and our allies: we must double down on our efforts to inspire, train and support future LGBTQ+ candidates — our rights will depend on it.”

Pictured, from left, three of the out officials elected last year: Minnesota Rep. Leigh Finke, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, and Connecticut Treasurer Erick Russell

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