House Democrats seek to adopt resolution honoring & uplifting Black queer leaders

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)'s official Congressional portrait. Photo: U.S. Congress

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a resolution that “seeks to uplift the contributions of Black LGBTQ+ individuals, both past and present, as fearless trailblazers in American culture and society.”

House Resolution 170, as introduced by Lee and co-sponsored by 29 other Congress members, specifically lists 26 Black LGBTQ people — including civil rights activists Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, and Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza — to celebrate and recognize, “those whose names we will never know.”

Related: The Obamas will produce an upcoming film about Bayard Rustin

If adopted, the House will recognize “Black History Month as an important time to celebrate the remarkable and unique contributions of all LGBTQ+ Black Americans in United States history.”

Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who were the first two elected out Black members of Congress, co-sponsored the resolution. Four other out members of the House — Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Mark Tacano (D-CA) — also co-sponsored it.

All are co-chairs of the Equality LGBTQ+ Caucus. Rep. Lee is a co-chair and founding member of the caucus.

Rep. Lee said in a statement, “the accomplishments of Black LGBTQ+ citizens have often been downplayed or ignored while they face the compounding impacts of racism and anti-LGBTQ+ bias. However, these harsh realities have not diminished the impact of notable Black LGBTQ+ leaders like Barbara Jordan, Marsha P. Johnson, and Bayard Rustin.”

Rep. Lee continued, “this resolution is an important step in ensuring that their contributions are remembered and properly commemorated.”

In addition to touting an endorsement from the caucus, Equality California and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) partnered with Rep. Lee to propose the resolution. NBJC’s President David Johns is among the honorees.

“The struggles for racial justice and LGBTQ+ equality are not the same, but they have always been intertwined. From Bayard Rustin and Marsha P. Johnson to Alphonso David and Imani Rupert-Gordon, Black LGBTQ+ civil rights leaders have had a major impact on our shared histories — and they are shaping our movement today,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur stated. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to celebrate their work and their transformative impacts on our nation.”

NBJC deputy executive director Victoria Kirby York said in a statement, “this resolution marks the first time in history that either chamber of the U.S. Congress has honored the history makers and trailblazers who have had a profound impact on our nation’s history despite being marginalized and stigmatized due to race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and often sex and disability.

“Nonetheless, our community has made its mark in the arts, politics, science and mathematics, business ownership, athletics, healthcare, media, law, religion, and in the fight for social justice.”

The resolution honors the following late individuals:

The resolution honors the living individuals:

  • Carter Brown, founder and National Director of Black TransMen Inc.
  • Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter
  • Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
  • Gabriel Foster, co-founder and Executive Director of the Trans Justice Funding Project
  • Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter
  • Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a Stonewall veteran and participant in the Attica prison riots, who “has spoken out for justice for marginalized communities for decades”
  • Andrea Jenkins, the first Black transgender woman elected to public office in the United States as a member of the Minneapolis City Council
  • Martin Jenkins, a former NFL player that became the first out California Supreme Court Justice
  • David Johns, President of the National Black Justice Coalition
  • Kierra Johnson, the Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force
  • Lori Lightfoot, the first out mayor of Chicago
  • Dominique Morgan, the national director of prison abolition organization Black and Pink
  • Ron Oden, the first out Black mayor of a city in the United States, elected in Palm Springs in 2003
  • Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
  • Jewel Thais-Williams, the founder of Los Angeles’ Jewel’s Catch One bar “as an inclusive, welcoming space for Black LGBTQ+ Angelenos.”
  • Phill Wilson, HIV/AIDS activist and founder of the Black AIDS Institute.

According to the Library of Congress, the proposal remains before the Democrat-majority House Committee on Oversight and Reform. It is chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

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