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Citizenship

Record Number of LGBTQ People Are Running for Office in the US

By Sonia Elks

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A record number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are standing in elections for public office in the United States, a non-profit group that supports them said on Tuesday.

The Victory Institute said gay and trans people were still underrepresented in political life, but it was aware of more than 400 LGBTQ candidates so far in 2018 — a higher number than ever before.

“It’s a really exciting time,” Sean Meloy, the Victory Institute’s political director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We believe that representation is power and when someone is in the room and helping to make decisions, they will automatically bring an LGBTQ perspective.”

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Earlier this year the Victory Institute said just 0.1% of all elected public officials currently serving — or 559 — were openly LGBTQ.

It said an estimated 5% of US citizens identified as LGBTQ, though a recent major poll suggested the figure could exceed 20% among young adults.

The majority of the LGBTQ candidates coming forward are Democrats, and many are standing in November’s midterm elections.

They are running for positions ranging from state governor to local government officials.

Among them is Alexandra Chandler, a Democrat transgender woman and former military intelligence officer running for Congress in Massachusetts.

She said a more diverse group of officials would better reflect society and bring better policy, but that she did not believe her identity was a concern for most voters.

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“They want the person that gets the job done,” she said. “The gender identity or sexual identity, it’s part of someone’s biography, it’s part of the whole person they bring to the table, but it’s only a part.”

Public policy expert Patrick Egan said the figures reflected an increasing tolerance of LGBTQ people among the US public.

“Gay people have always been involved with electoral politics and many of them ran for office,” said Egan, associate professor of politics and public policy at New York University.

“What we are seeing now is the slow receding in stigma against gay people in that they can not only run for office but run openly as LGBT.”

(Reporting by Sonia Elks. Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)