LGBTQ Elected Officials’ Letter to the 116th Congress

The following letter was drafted after a closed-door convening of LGBTQ elected officials at LGBTQ Victory Institute’s International LGBTQ Leaders Conference on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

Dear Members of Congress:

We are writing to you as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) elected officials. LGBTQI people serve their communities as Members of Congress, Governors, State Legislators, Mayors, City Councilmembers and School Board Members. We represent diverse communities throughout our great nation.

We are writing to request that you move forward with four key initiatives to further advance the rights of LGBTQI Americans:

1. Passage of The Equality Act

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.

Despite significant steps forward, many LGBTQI Americans continue to lack non-discrimination protections where they live. The patchwork nature of current laws leaves millions of people subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination that impacts their safety, their families, and their day-to-day lives.

Thirty states still lack fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQI people, meaning that LGBTQI people are at risk of being fired, denied housing, and denied services for who they are or whom they love. Nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQI Americans reported experiencing discrimination in their personal lives. Examples of this discrimination include the teacher who was fired after her principal discovered she was planning to have a child with her partner or the lesbian couple asked to leave a park while shooting maternity photos.

The Equality Act will provide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQI people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services and all federally funded programs.

We call on Members of Congress to pass The Equality Act in order to give explicit protection to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

2. Reducing HIV/AIDS

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) was created in 1995 by President Bill Clinton with the intent of developing appropriate responses to the AIDS epidemic. On December 28, 2017, President Trump dismissed all remaining members of PACHA, basically dismantling the Council.

Today, after decades of direct action, political organizing, and strategic prevention and programmatic efforts, we have the bio-medical interventions to stop new HIV infections, and help those who are HIV-positive reduce their viral loads to undetectable. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) adopted a transformative agenda for the global HIV response, which aims to get zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination or stigma.

Despite the progress that has been made, nearly 40,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV each year in the United States and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented. Almost 3 out of 4 new HIV diagnoses are among racial and ethnic minorities. If current HIV diagnoses rates persist, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict about 1 in 2 black gay men and 1 in 4 Latino gay men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime. This alarming lifetime risk is a call to action to increase prevention and care strategies now.

We call on Members of Congress to:

  • Establish a Congressional Advisory Commission on HIV/AIDS.
  • Advocate for a goal of “Getting to Zero” to bring an end to this disease.
  • Take proactive measures to address the continuing disparities in HIV diagnoses and treatment in communities of color.

3. Protecting Transgender People

The Trump Administration has threatened to make several changes to strip away rights from transgender and intersex people. Soon after taking office, President Trump announced that he would institute a ban on enlisting and retaining transgender military personnel because the military should not be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” The Trump Administration revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity. And recently, the Administration announced plans to change federal civil-rights law to include a definition of sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

These actions eradicate federal recognition of some 1.4 million transgender Americans. The proposed changes can have a traumatic effect, leaving people exposed and their rights revoked.

We call on Members of Congress to oppose all efforts to discriminate against transgender people or to limit the definition of gender identity and expression to mere biology.

4. Improving Our Commitment to LGBTQI Rights Globally

LGBTQI people of all ages and in all regions of the world suffer from violations of their human rights. They are physically attacked, kidnapped, raped and murdered. In more than a third of the world’s countries, people may be arrested and jailed (and in at least five countries executed) for engaging in private, consensual, same sex relationships. Transgender people are often denied identity papers that reflect their preferred gender, without which they cannot work, travel, open a bank account or access services. LGBTQI children and adolescents face bullying and discrimination in school. Young people may also be thrown out of their homes by their parents, forced into psychiatric institutions or forced to marry based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBTQI asylum seekers may flee their countries due to persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, or for the same reasons as any other refugee – such as ethnic conflict, political unrest, or the lack of religious freedom. The U.S. Department of Justice has announced plans to restructure the current asylum system to make it more difficult for people to apply for asylum. These proposals will have a serious impact on numerous people, especially LGBTQI people from Central America who are already living in this country.

We call on Members of Congress to:

  • Oppose efforts to change the asylum system in ways which would make it more difficult for LGBTQI people who are facing persecution and violence in their home countries from seeking asylum in the United States.
  • Ensure LGBTQI Rights are a cornerstone of our foreign policy at the United Nations and throughout the world.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you on these issues and all other issues impacting the rights of LGBTQI Americans.


LGBTQ Elected Official Signatories as of December 12, 2018:

Zach Adamson, Vice President of Indianapolis City-County Council (IN)

James Aguilar, San Leandro Unified School Board Trustee (CA)

Victor Aguilar, San Leandro City Councilman-elect (CA)

Ben Allatt, Vice President of Harrisburg City Council (PA)

Raghib Allie-Brennan, Connecticut State Representative-Elect

Francena Amparo, Dutchess County Legislator (NY)

Nickie Antonio, Ohio State Representative and State Senator-Elect

Judy Appel, Berkeley Unified School District School Board Trustee (CA)

Kelvin Atkinson, Nevada Senate Majority Leader

Barbara Baier, Lincoln Board of Education Member (NE)

John Bauters, Mayor of Emeryville (CA)

Wendy Berry, West St. Paul City Councilmember (MN)

Jeremy Blake, Newark City Councilmember

Joshua Boschee, Minority Leader in North Dakota House of Representatives

David Bria, Yardley Councilmember (PA)

Lisa Bunker, New Hampshire State Representative-Elect

Sara Burlingame, Wyoming State Representative

Deborah Butler, North Carolina State Representative

Ed Butler, New Hampshire State Representative

Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento (CA)

Park Cannon, Georgia State Representative

Andres Cano, Arizona State Representative

James Cappleman, City of Chicago Alderman

Kevin Carden, Recorder in Corporation of Harpers Ferry (WV)

James Chang, Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner (CA)

Cesar Chavez, Arizona State Representative

Justin Chenette, Maine State Senator

Chris Clark, Mountain View City Councilmember (CA)

Cathy Connolly, Minority Floor Leader in Wyoming House of Representatives

Richard Conti, President Pro Tem of Albany Common Council (NY)

Christopher Constant, Anchorage Assemblymember (AK)

Julian Cyr, Massachusetts State Senator

Allison Dahle, North Carolina State Representative-Elect

Thomas Davidson, Summit County Commissioner (CO)

Larry Forester, Signal Hill Councilmember (CA)

Michael Defusco, Hoboken City Councilman (NJ)

Scott Dibble, Minnesota State Senator

Beth Doglio, Washington State Representative

Randy Downs, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (Washington, DC)

Adam Ebbin, Virginia State Senator

Harrie Farrow, Carroll County Justice of the Peace (AR)

Ryan Fecteau, Maine State Representative and Assistant Majority Leader

Greg Ford, Vice Chairman of Wake County Board of Commissioners (NC)

Larry Forester, Signal Hill Councilmember (CA)

Shay Franco-Clausen, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (CA)

Jesse Gantt, Vice President of Susquehanna Township School Board (SD)

Brian Garcia, Tempe Union Governing Board Member (AZ)

Joseph Geierman, Doraville City Councilmember (GA)

Steven Glassman, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner (FL)

Diana Gonzalez, Vermont State Representative

Mary Gonzalez, Texas State Representative

Michael Goodnow, Bremerton City Council (WA)

Steve Hansen, Vice Mayor of Sacramento (CA)

Bruce Harris, Mayor of Chatham Borough (NJ)

John Heilman, West Hollywood Councilmember (CA)

Rosanna Herber, Director-Elect of Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Leslie Herod, Colorado State Representative

Dana Hilliard, Mayor of Somersworth (NH)

Jon Hoadley, Michigan State Representative

Matt Hughes, Town of Hillsborough Commissioner (NC)

Megan Hunt, Nebraska State Senator-Elect

Jay Irwin, Ralston School Board Member (NE)

Andrea Jenkins, Vice President of Minneapolis City Council

Laurie Jinkins, Washington State Representative

Anne Kaiser, Maryland House of Delegates

Gabe Kearney, Petaluma Councilmember (PA)

Michelle Kennedy, Greensboro Councilmember (NC)

Audra Killingsworth, Apex Town Councilmember (NC)

Rebecca Kislak, Rhode Island Representative-Elect

Geoffrey Kors, Palm Springs City Councilmember (CA)

Ben Ku, Gwinnett County Commissioner (GA)

Shawn Kumagai, Dublin City Councilmember-Elect (CA)

Sandra Kurt, Clerk of Courts of Summit County (OH)

Jack Patrick Lewis, Massachusetts State Representative

Marko Liias, Washington State Senator

Signe Lindell, Santa Fe City Councilor (NM)

Bill Lippert, Vermont State Representative

Raymond A. Lopez, City of Chicago Alderman

LaWana Mayfield, Charlotte City Councilmember (NC)

John McCrostie, Idaho State Representative

Tippi McCullough, Arkansas State Representative-Elect

Luis Medina, Lewisburg Borough Councilmember (PA)

Douglas Metcalfe, School Director of Twin Valley School District (PA)

Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs Councilmember (CA)

Daniel Miller, Treasurer of Harrisburg (PA)

Brian Mock, Chamblee Councilmember (GA)

Dominick Moreno, Colorado State Senator

Marcia Morey, North Carolina State Representative

Jason Morgan, Washtenaw County Commissioner (MI)

Kevin Morrison, Cook County Board Commissioner (IL)

Jeremy Moss, Michigan State Senator-Elect

Garrett Muscatel, New Hampshire State Representative

Donna Nesselbush, Rhode Island State Senator

Andrea Olsen, Montana State Representative

Laura Parmer-Lohan, San Carlos City Councilmember (CA)

Roy Peterson, New Carrollton City Councilmember (MD)

Greg Pettis, Mayor of Cathedral City (CA)

Michael Poppa, Roeland Park Councilmember (KS)

Karin Power, Oregon State Representative

Jeffrey Prang, Assessor of Los Angeles County (CA)

Austin Quinn-Davidson, Anchorage Assemblymember (AK)

Gabriel Quinto, El Cerrito Councilmember (CA)

Neil Rafferty, Alabama State Representative-Elect

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, City of Chicago Alderman

Alex Randolph, Vice-President of City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

Greg Razer, Missouri State Representative

Alex Reber, Millersburg Borough Treasurer (PA)

Lois Reckitt, Maine State Representative

Janelle Rettig, County Supervisor of Johnson County (IA)

Felix Rivera, Anchorage Assemblymember (AK)

Lamont J Robinson, Illinois State Representative-Elect

Paul Rosenthal, Colorado State Representative

Evan Ross, Amherst Town Councilor (MA)

Deborah Ruggiero, Rhode Island State Representative

Susan Ruiz, Kansas State Representative-Elect

Michael Sabatino, Majority Leader of Yonkers City Council (NY)

Janelle K. Sarauw, U.S. Virgin Islands Senator

Lori Schreiber, Abington Township Commissioner (PA)

Chris Schwartz, Black Hawk County Supervisor (IA)

Katie Scott, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (MI)

Kristin Seale, Director of Rose Tree Media School Board (PA)

Damon Seils, Mayor Pro Tempore of Carrboro (NC)

Debra Shore, Commissioner of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Brian Sims, Pennsylvania State Representative

Jeffrey Slavin, Mayor of Somerset (MD)

Paul Smedberg, Alexandria City Councilmember (VA)

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida State Representative

Marque Snow, Omaha Public Schools Board of Education Member (NE)

Karen Stegman, Chapel Hill Councilmember (NC)

Ty Stober, Vancouver Councilmember (WA)

Ron Strouse, Mayor of Doylestown (PA)

Michael Sutphin, Blacksburg Town Councilmember (VA)

Eric-John Szczepaniak, Kenowa Hills Public Schools Board of Education Member (MI)

Joshua Tenorio, Lieutenant Governor-Elect of Guam

Brianna Titone, Colorado State Representative-Elect

Tyler James Titus, Erie City School Board Director (PA)

Dave Upthegrove, King County Councilmember (WA)

Alex Valdez, Colorado State Representative

Nancy VanReece, Nashville and Davidson County Metro Councilmember

Lawrence Webb, Chair Falls Church City School Boardmember

Jennifer Webb, Florida State Representative-Elect

Tyller Williamson, Monterey City Councilmember (CA)

Claire Wilson, Washington State Senator

Matthew Wilson, Georgia State Representative-Elect

Brett Withers, Nashville and Davidson County Metro Councilmember

Patrick Wojahn, Mayor of College Park (MD)

Brandon Woodard, Kansas State Representative

Zach Young, Goodlettsville City Commissioner (TN)

JoCasta Zamarripa, Wisconsin State Assemblymember

Ahmad Zahra, Fullerton City Councilmember (CA)

Amy Zanelli, Lehigh County Commissioner (PA)

Les Zendle, Desert Healthcare District Director (CA)