“It’s definitely a trajectory I can trace better in hindsight,” she says of her career path.
Davids now serves as a co-chair of the Equality Caucus in the House of Representatives, along with other recently-elected LGBTQ+ politicians. In 2019, she and over 200 colleagues co-sponsored the Equality Act, a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill that would protect LGBTQ+ Americans at a federal level. That same year, the House passed the bill for the first time in history, but it did not have enough support in the Senate to clear Congress.
“I do think that having a more reflective body and having more of us who are part of the LGBTQ+ community has been helpful in educating our colleagues and in raising questions that should be asked,” she says.
Davids believes that the impact of her diverse incoming class shouldn’t just be measured by whether or not specific bills like the Equality Act make it to the President’s desk; rather, Davids points out, LGBTQ+ members of Congress are bringing their unique perspectives to the table on all sorts of issues, including education policy, transportation and infrastructure, and small business.
“Although we might be newer to the space,” she says, “we are bringing a much-needed and important set of experiences and voices to the table.”
There is still a long way to go before LGBTQ+ people are fully represented in Congress. According to the Victory Institute’s latest numbers, we would need to elect 13 more LGBTQ+ members of the House of Representatives and three more LGBTQ+ Senators in order to achieve a level of Congressional representation proportional to the general population. That means that the number of openly LGBTQ+ people in Congress is only about a third as large as it should be. In a country that still hasn’t passed LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections at a federal level, that disparity matters — and it will take a lot more than a rainbow wave and a rainbow tsunami to address it.
Across all levels of government, the Victory Institute notes, we would need to elect a whopping 22,544 more LGBTQ+ candidates to achieve proportional representation. That’s the equivalent of 470 more school buses’ worth of queer politicians, on top of the mere 18 that we have now. Without that large pool of talent to draw from, it will be challenging to fully close the gap at the highest levels of government. Because as stories like Ritchie Torres’ prove, the LGBTQ+ congressional leaders of tomorrow are going to be the ones winning city council races today.
But although full representation might seem distant, 2020 is an inflection point in the making — a virtuous cycle that can beget another virtuous cycle, helped along by coverage that draws attention to queer political success. Perhaps someone reading this very article will be the next one of the 22,544 we need.
As Election Day draws near, Rep. Park in Georgia thinks often of a line from Harvey Milk’s famous Hope Speech, in which the late LGBTQ+ civil rights hero said that “if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.” That quote, says Park, helps him imagine a queer future that can feel far away.
“In the midst of all the chaos and uncertainty that we’re currently facing, I do believe that LGBTQ leaders continue to demonstrate, especially in their success, hope — hope that if we can make it, anyone can.”
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