Four new out LGBTQ+ legislators will eventually be sworn into the U.S. House, just as soon as Republicans can stop infighting and pick a new Speaker.
The freshmen legislators — Robert Garcia (D-CA), Becca Balint (D-VT), Eric Sorensen (D-IL), and George Santos (R-NY) — signal a shift towards equality in the lower congressional chamber, even as it falls under Republican control.
Garcia not only made history by becoming the first LGBTQ+ immigrant and the first Peruvian-American in Congress, but he was also elected to serve as the House Freshman Class President of the 118th U.S. Congress, making him the first-ever LGBTQ+ person ever to serve in the role.
While was also the youngest and first out LGBTQ+ person elected as mayor of Long Beach, California (a position he served in from 2014 to 2022), he was actually registered as a Republican until 2007. During his time as mayor, he worked with businesses to reduce their environmental impacts, filled vacancies on citizen commissions with diverse and female members, and worked to improve local infrastructure as well as financial opportunities for local artists and home-based business owners.
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In 2014, he also visited Peru and Honduras in partnership with the Victory Institute and the U.S. State Department on missions to help expand international LGBTQ+ rights.
“We’re going to work really hard to not just change our own Progressive Caucus, but our Hispanic Caucus, and try to bring a new sense of urgency. We do not want to wait anymore [for change],” Garcia said, according to The Washington Post.
Balint is the woman and the first out LGBTQ+ person to represent Vermont in Congress. She moved to Vermont in 1994, met her now-wife Elizabeth Wohl in 2000, formed a civil union with her in 2004, and then married her in 2009, after Vermont legalized same-sex marriage. They have two children.
Balint was also the first out lesbian ever to serve in Vermont’s state senate, where she served from 2015 to 2023. During her last two years there, she served as the first-ever out lesbian Senate President pro tempore. She said that her family’s survival of the Nazi Holocaust and her experiences growing up lesbian in unaccepting communities taught her the importance of working for social and political change.
“Even with the challenges of today, we cannot back away from fighting for each other,” Balint said when announcing her campaign. “We have to deliver on some big promises for Vermont working families and that is going to take courage and kindness.”
Balint has pledged to fight for Medicare for all, paid family and medical leave, the Green New Deal, and racial justice legislation.
Though Sorensen is the first LGBTQ+ Congress member from Illinois, he began his professional career as a meteorologist in Texas.
In fact, he said that during his first TV job in the state, his boss presented a copy of his contract with the “morals clause” highlighted, a sign of homophobic disapproval. Despite this, Sorensen still used his weather knowledge and a dedicated team of meteorologists to create Project Tornado, a program that claims to have educated over 50,000 students about recognizing and responding to severe weather events.
“I got into this race because to me, being the meteorologist on TV was about protecting my community. It was about being a trusted communicator who could be relied on to tell the truth,” he told WTVW. “Through it all, I was working for the people in our community, not the TV station.”
“In a moment where we are recovering from a global pandemic, seeing the rollback of reproductive rights, increasing gun violence, and painful inflation, it’s clear that we need more science and less partisan bickering,” he added.
He lives in Moline with his partner, Shawn, and their two dogs, Oliver and Petey.
Santos made history as the first Brazilian-American and first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. However, his arrival has been marred by lies he told about large parts of his biography.
Santos — and his questionable history and campaign finances — are currently under investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly (R), Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz (D) and the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.