History was made when Kyrsten Sinema won a 2018 election to the U.S. Senate representing Arizona. She became the first bisexual senator and one of the very few out elected officials in American history, after first serving as a Congresswoman for six years. Now, however, people are realizing Sinema’s identity doesn’t necessarily translate over to her politics.
Despite championing LGBTQ rights while campaigning and co-sponsoring the Equality Act, proposed legislation that would outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Sinema is one of two lawmakers currently preventing a path that would allow such legislation to pass in the Senate. After months of backlash, now other bisexual people are joining in opposition of her actions.
The Sunrise Movement, a progressive environmental advocacy organization, hosted a “Hot Bisexuals Against Kyrsten Sinema (HBAKS)” virtual phone bank on October 7, asking for people to call voters in Arizona and ask for their support on behalf of Sunrise’s chapter based in Tempe, AZ.
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“If you didn’t know, right now, [Sinema] is fighting for her life, not because she cares about her constituents or anything, but because she’s been bought out by corporations and Big Pharma,” the organization stated on Instagram, “and people are finally starting to hold her accountable… She’s fighting against our agenda and plans to fund our communities with bold investments through reconciliation (our hard earned climate and jobs bill).”
Sinema has faced criticism for months for opposing any reform to Senate filibuster rules that would allow bills to pass on a simple majority. The filibuster is a procedural maneuver historically used to prevent the passage of civil rights legislation.
It is a relic of Jim Crow and is currently being used to stop voting reform, raising the minimum wage, and landmark LGBTQ civil rights legislation like the Equality Act, which protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in federal law.
Budget bills and other limited measures can be passed through a process known as reconciliation, avoiding the filibuster by allowing a simple majority of the Senate to pass a bill without getting 60 votes to override any filibuster efforts. But Sinema has also opposed to the Biden administration’s budget bill — which would expand funding for a number of progressive initiatives — in part because she has refused to clarify what parts she opposes.
“$3.5T was already the compromise’s COMPROMISE. We can’t go lower,” Sunrise stated on Instagram.
Several prominent Democrats and activists, including LGBTQ activists, have made clear they’ll oppose Sinema’s reelection if she doesn’t change her position. Civil rights leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have both protested against her in recent months.
HBAKS UNITE! We’re recruiting for our HBAKS — Hot Bisexuals Against Kyrsten Sinema — phonebank on Thursday at 7 PM ET 🤪
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) October 4, 2021
Now, the Sunrise Movement is following through with such a pledge.
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“Hey girls, gays, and theys. The People want to know – are you a HBAKS? We’re recruiting — for Hot Bisexuals Against Kyrsten Sinema,” the event’s page read before the event.
“Cuff your jeans, grab your iced coffee, take your SSRI, and sit sideways in your chair at smvmt.link/sinema. We’ve got to let Sinema know that representation isn’t colorful wigs and great eyeliner.”
The organization added, “Queers want it all: good jobs, investments in infrastructure, citizenship for all, and a chance to SURVIVE.”
While they make clear on Instagram that their “Phonebank is open to all identities tho, HBAKS and all
Bets Ericksen, a Sunrise Movement national organizer in Washington, DC, told Teen Vogue that they found Sinema’s 2018 run to be “brave” and “vulnerable.”
But unfortunately, with climate change at a critical, all too-important impasse, Ericksen believes “Kyrsten Sinema became this figure that was clearly in the way” of addressing the ongoing crisis in the environment.
“Realizing that she was literally one of two or three people standing in the way of passing this legislation that folks have been fighting for… that made me really mad,” they said. “It made me so furious that I had even identified with her at one point or had looked up to her. I just felt betrayed.”
Ericksen added, “LGBT folks in politics are using their identity and they’re claiming to represent people, but they’re not actually standing up for the things that would make our lives better.”
So the phone bank came to fruition, given the fact that Sunrise organizers in Tempe has failed to get in contact or have any face time with Sinema, despite being her constituents. Recently, activists and constituents have felt like they had to approach her on the way to the bathroom or on airplanes, although they didn’t get many satisfactory answers, either.
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) October 7, 2021
“We’re not even talking about doing something totally out of the imagination here. This is literally the president’s agenda, this is literally what Biden campaigned on,” Ericksen told Teen Vogue. “It really makes me sad that a queer woman who is young is one of the people [in the way], especially when I think she’s deceiving the public about why she’s doing it, because she does get a lot of support from corporate donors. But most Arizonans are in favor [of] the stuff in these bills.”
While attendance for the virtual event was not immediately clear, Sunrise is continuing to organize more virtual phone banks to reach out to constituents of other lawmakers not supporting progressive legislation.
Sunrise Tempe is planning to protest Sinema next weekend before the Senate reaches the end of this year’s portion of the legislative session.