With the 2018 midterm elections in the rearview mirror – and the 2020 election cycle set to begin at any moment – here’s my big recap of what happened last night and how it will affect LGBTQ Americans going forward.
While a “blue wave” was anticipated, to different degrees, over the past few months, we’re more inclined to describe last night’s elections as a “blue splash,” as there was a big shift for the country and several important ‘ripples’ that followed.
First up, and most important for the entire country, Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives.
At this writing, according to The New York Times, Democrats flipped 27 seats (more than the necessary 23) to blue and there are still several contests looking good for Dems that haven’t been called.
What this means is, for the first time, a lever of Congress will be holding Trump and Republicans accountable.
All committee chair positions will be assumed by Democrats including the Ways and Means Committee (which determines spending for the House), the House Oversight Committee (expect subpoenas to be issued and investigations to be launched) and more.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi is expected to return as Speaker of the House, and she’s already announced The Equality Act, which would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 giving LGBTQ people federal protection from discrimination in terms of employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
While no one expects the legislation to pass with a Republican-controlled Senate and White House, Democrats will certainly give the bill energy and momentum so it could be signed by a pro-LGBTQ president, hopefully after 2020.
Even more important perhaps, though, is oversight of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBT policies including “religious freedom” laws, the transgender military ban, and efforts to define laws against sex discrimination to exclude LGBT people.
A huge win for LGBTQ folks last night was Jared Polis’ win in Colorado as the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state.
Also, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon clinched her bid for reelection. She became the nation’s first openly bisexual governor in 2015.
Unfortunately, transgender Vermonter Christine Hallquist and Texas’ openly lesbian Lupe Valdez lost their races for the governorship.
Joshua Tenorio became Guam’s Lt. Governor making him the first openly gay elected to territory-wide office. Guam also elected its first female governor, Lou Leon Guerrero.
Governorships are extremely important because they can set the policies and agenda for states in opposition to the White House. And, governors will oversee the 10-year redistricting efforts to come in 2020 after the census. That will allow a course correction from the gerrymandering Republicans enacted in 2010 which helped to hamper Democratic efforts in the years since.
Also, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maine, Kansas, Nevada and New Mexico flipped their governorships to Democrat which will have a huge impact on the 2020 elections.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the only openly lesbian in the Senate, coasted to reelection.
Sharice Davids becomes the first gay Native American elected to Congress winning Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.
Angie Craig beat Republican Jason Lewis to become the first openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from Minnesota, and the first LGBTQ mother in Congress.
New York’s 18th Congressional District reelected gay father of three Sean Patrick Maloney to his fourth term in the House.
With his victory over Republican Eddie Edwards, Chris Pappas becomes the first openly gay member of Congress from New Hampshire.
Openly bisexual Katie Hill currently leads by 2.5% in her California race to unseat anti-LGBTQ Republican Steve Knight in the 25th District.
Openly gay Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin easily won his reelection bid, as did David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Mark Takano of California.
J.D. Ford unseated one of Indiana’s most conservative state senators becoming the Hoosier state’s first out state legislator.
Pennsylvania elected Malcolm Kenyatta to its state House becoming the first out gay black man to be elected to the PA legislature. Read more about his win here.
Also in Pennsylvania, woofy Brian Sims easily won reelection to the state House. Go Team Bear!
MALCOLM KENYATTA: This is a special announcement in so many ways! My friend @malcolmforpa has been elected to the Pa House and is the first ever African-American gay man elected to the legislature and only the second Out person ever elected to the House!!! #RainbowWave pic.twitter.com/YL43gsCx0Y
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) November 7, 2018
Gay former Marine Neil Rafferty won his bid to the Alabama state House where he’ll replace retiring Patricia Todd, the state’s first openly gay legislator.
Maryland State Delegate Mary Washington makes history as the first openly LGBTQ person of color to be elected to the Maryland Senate.
Also in Maryland, Gabriel Acevero is the first openly gay black man elected to the Maryland Assembly.
Jennifer Webb becomes the first openly LGBTQ woman to be elected to the Florida legislature.
Two transgender women, Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker, were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. They join Virginia state Delegate Danica Roem as the only openly transgender members of any state legislature.
Massachusetts sent a strong message of support to the transgender community as Proposition 3, asking if Bay Staters wanted to keep protections for trans people in place, sailed to victory with over 68%.
VICTORY: #Massachusetts votes #YesOn3 to uphold dignity and respect for our #transgender neighbors! Together, we’ve secured the first-ever statewide victory for transgender protections at the ballot box. pic.twitter.com/wPTwaWuGQj
— Vote Yes on 3 (@Freedom_Mass) November 7, 2018
Florida voters passed Amendment 4 which will restore voting rights to felons (other than for murder or rape) who have served their time in prison and paid their debt to society.
And there were wins for prominent LGBTQ allies as well.
Zach Wahls, who famously defended his two moms speaking to Iowa lawmakers about same-sex marriage in 2011, will now become part of that very body after winning his contest to Iowa’s state Senate.
Nevada elected pro-LGBTQ Jacky Rosen to the U.S. Senate, the one Senate pickup for the Dems last night.
Also of note, Kim Davis, the infamous Kentucky County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, lost her reelection bid.
There were some heartbreaking losses last night as well.
Andrew Gillum of Florida and Beto O’Rourke in Texas lost their high profile bids to win seats in the U.S. Senate.
In addition, losses in Missouri and North Dakota mean the Republicans expand their majority in the Senate by two.