This year’s midterm elections were historic for the LGBTQ+ community, with a record number of out candidates winning their races.
According to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, 436 out candidates were victorious, beating 2020’s record of 336.
LGBTQ+ candidates had a 61% win rate, and what’s more, many of the winning politicians made history as the first out LGBTQ+ person to be elected to their position.
Here are just a few of the LGBTQ+ candidates who broke lavender ceilings this year.
Maura Healey & Tina Kotek
Together, Maura Healey (D) of Massachusetts and Tina Kotek (D) of Oregon were elected the nation’s first-ever out lesbian governors.
Healey was also the country’s first lesbian state attorney general. While in office, she took on Purdue Pharma over the opioid crisis and exposed Exxon’s climate crisis denial. As Civil Rights Chief in the AG’s office, Healey brought the first successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, helping to lay the groundwork for marriage equality nationwide.
As AG, she championed non-discrimination protections for trans people in Massachusetts and pushed for gender-neutral markers both federally and for the state.
She also sued the Trump administration repeatedly – nearly 100 times over her tenure.
Kotek was the longest-serving House speaker in Oregon history and the first to be an out lesbian. She used her position to secure greater LGBTQ+ rights and to help manage the state’s other environmental and societal challenges.
During her 16 years serving in the state house, Kotek helped raise Oregon’s minimum wage, enact a new business tax to raise about $1 billion annually for schools, pass new gun controls, lower carbon emissions and protect abortion access. She also criticized the state’s lack of police and ongoing delays in addressing homelessness.
Erin Maye Quade & Clare Oumou Verbeten
Erin Maye Quade and Clare Oumou Verbeten collectively became the first out LGBTQ+ and first Black women ever elected to the Minnesota state Senate.
Maye Quade is known for holding a 24-hour sit-in on the state house floor to protest a lack of action on gun violence. She also went viral this election cycle for making a convention speech while in labor.
Oumou Verbeten works for the city of St. Paul as an equity manager. She told the Sahan Journal that “It’s an honor to be able to step into… history. Doing that with my sisters is really important to me. We’re not alone and we’re going in there together.”
26-year-old Democrat James Roesener became the first trans man ever elected to a state legislature this year.
Mayor Annise Parker, LGBTQ Victory Fund President & CEO, called his victory “a resounding win for New Hampshire and for trans people across the country.”
“Trans people – and trans men in particular – remain severely underrepresented in government at every level,” Parker continued, “but we are confident his win will inspire many more trans people to run for office.”
This year, Becca Balint (D) was elected the first out LGBTQ+ woman member of Congress from Vermont.
In March, the current President Pro Tempore of the Vermont State Senate told LGBTQ Nation that her main reason for running for Congress was to combat the rising threat of authoritarianism in the U.S.
In Congress, Balint also plans to tackle the workforce and housing shortage crises taking place across many states. She also plans to advocate for “Medicare for All”, as well as more significant investments in childcare, paid sick leave, and minimum wage increases.
During the midterm elections, two-term Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia (D) became the first out LGBTQ+ immigrant elected to Congress. He will represent California’s 42nd district.
“My mom brought me to this country when I was 5. She risked everything so that I could succeed,” Garcia said in a tweet when he announced his Congressional campaign. “Every single kid deserves the same shot that this country has given me.”
Christian Manuel-Hayes & Venton Jones
Together, Democrats Christian Manuel-Hayes and Venton Jones have become the first out Black LGBTQ+ men ever elected to the Texas state legislature.
In a statement celebrating the victories, Mayor Parker called out anti-LGBTQ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), saying that he “emboldened a wave of anti-LGBTQ hate this year – but there hate has fueled LGBTQ people to step up and run for office like never before…For far too long, Black and LGBTQ Texans have lacked equitable representation. Tonight, we are taking a meaningful step forward.”
Democrat Jason Hoskins became the first out LGBTQ person of color elected to Michigan’s state legislature.
“From his advocacy at the ACLU to his work in the Michigan state legislature, Jason has dedicated his entire career to bettering his community by fighting for more equitable and inclusive public policy,” said Mayor Parker. “He has the political grit and strong grassroots support to enact meaningful, lasting change in Lansing. At a time of increased homophobia and racism, his win tonight is also a deafening rebuke of hate and a powerful sign that progress, though slow at times, will prevail.”
Zooey Zephyr was the first out trans person ever elected to the Montana legislature.
She decided to run after testifying before the Montana legislature against an anti-trans sports bill.
“Asking the people in that room to see your humanity and to care about the issues that were hurting your community — and to have to speak to a legislature that did not want to listen when it came to human rights — was hard,” she told LGBTQ Nation in March.
“The core fire at the center of my heart is my trans community, my queer community,” she also said, “and seeing the way the legislature was harming them, from the trans sports ban to attempted bans on healthcare for trans youth to [limitations on] updating your birth certificate… If we don’t have people in the room trying to stop it, we’ll never be able to move the needle on this stuff.”
Democrat Erick Russell won his election for Connecticut treasurer this year, making him the first Black, gay statewide officeholder in the U.S.
A partner at the law firm Pullman & Comley, Russell ran on a platform that included responsible debt management to protect Connecticut’s bond rating, increasing the funded ratio of state pension funds, expanding financial literacy programs, and support for Connecticut’s recently passed “baby bonds” program to help address childhood poverty.
“For far too long, people of color and the LGBTQ community have lacked equitable representation in government,” said Parker. “Erick shattered this lavender ceiling and made history.”