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Vermont’s first trans lawmaker got engaged at President Biden’s Respect for Marriage Act ceremony

Vermont State House Candidate, Taylor Small in Winooski, VT on May 26, 2020.
Vermont State House Candidate, Taylor Small in Winooski, VT on May 26, 2020. Photo: James Buck

Vermont’s first out transgender state legislator got engaged at the White House Tuesday during President Joe Biden’s Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony.

Taylor Small attended the historic event with Carsen Russell, her partner of four years. Following Biden’s signing of the law that protects same-sex and interracial marriage rights by requiring all states to recognize marriages performed in other states, Russell popped the question on the South Lawn of the White House.

“We’re officially en-GAY-ged!” Small tweeted on Thursday. “I, of course, said YES and could not think of a more fitting way to celebrate this moment.”

The ceremony featured performances by the D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus, nonbinary singer Sam Smith, queer singer-songwriter Joy Oladokun, and longtime LGBTQ+ ally Cyndi Lauper against the backdrop of the White House lit up in rainbow colors.

“I don’t think my partner could have planned a more #iconic proposal,” Small tweeted. “To say I was surprised would be an understatement.”

Small was elected to represent Vermont’s Chittenden 6-7 district in 2020, becoming the first out transgender lawmaker to serve in the state’s legislature. At the time, she was only the fifth out trans state legislator in the U.S.

“Being the first means being that representation and being that guiding light,” she told LGBTQ Nation ahead of her 2020 win. “In a lot of ways, I don’t see it as a historical moment for myself, but more of a historical moment for the community.”

At the time, she stressed the importance of having marginalized communities represented in state legislatures. “Something that is really important when we focus on marginalized communities is the lens we bring when looking at bills and legislation. When people in power are typically white, older, wealthier, cisgender, [and] straight, their lens is in supporting the systems of power that already exist,” she explained.

“When you bring folks that have marginalized identities that aren’t typically seen in positions of power, it allows those most impacted to be at the forefront of those bills, and understanding the legislation we are making goes beyond ourselves, but is truly community-oriented and focused.”

Following the White House ceremony on Tuesday, Small told VT Digger that the Respect for Marriage Act “feels like a stepping stone in the larger work that we need to do to protect and really concretely support LGBTQ rights. But a major one, nonetheless, for our community.”

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