If elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district, Sean Meloy would be in the first out gay member of Congress to represent the Keystone State, but that’s not why he’s running. As a native of Allegheny County who grew up in a middle-class family, Meloy prioritizes working families and small businesses, promising to be a “pragmatic, progressive” voice. Some of his top issues include fighting for basic civil and voting rights, education, unions and fair wages, reproductive justice and working to mitigate climate change.
Meloy has been a loud voice for LGBTQ equality on a national level. He sat on the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, served as director of LGBTQ Engagement at the Democratic National Committee and, as part of his role at the Victory Fund, worked to help significantly increase the number of LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S. As a local and national Democratic organizer, Meloy sat on the Allegheny County Democratic Committee and worked for Congressman Mike Doyle, who has represented Pa.’s 18th district since 1995.
Meloy, who has received endorsements from the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and over 20 elected officials and community leaders, talked to PGN about why he’s running, the importance of LGBTQ representation in government, and how to get voters excited and engaged.
Why did you decide to run in 2022?
It was a mix of two things. It was the insurrection on January 6th, and being in disbelief that this is where our Democracy has ended up — because of disinformation, because of extremist rhetoric. I used to work on Capitol Hill for Congressman Mike Doyle. Those folks were breaking into areas where the two layers of security and the staff were to get into. I have friends who work in those buildings and I was really shocked. We need to stop that, we need to make sure that we save our democracy.
And then seeing some of the really popular and really important efforts that President Biden was pushing for. Seeing some folks who I would say are not necessarily in touch with middle class and working class families who need those common sense solutions really helped me say, ‘lets go and fight for some good people doing good work, they need some reinforcement.
What are some of the issues you prioritize that most impact the LGBTQ community?
I think the one thing that is universal, because LGBTQ people are in every community, is the fact that working and middle class people are not able to get by whether it’s because of housing, healthcare, or just the price of groceries. Wages are not rising the way they need to be in order for people to get by. I think of people like my parents. At the same time, they see the super wealthy taking more than they ever have and saying ‘oh we can’t pay folks more.’ Yet they’re taking more of these profits while they raise prices, and they don’t pay their people appropriately to live in society and pay those same prices. I think that’s the first thing that impacts LGBTQ people because it impacts everyone.
I think that the next one would be just basic civil rights under the law. The fact that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act has not passed, the fact that the Equality Act has not passed, doesn’t allow for LGBTQ people to basically be full citizens in this country. In places like Pennsylvania and a lot of places, you can still be fired for being who you are, you can be kicked out of your home, you can be denied jury service, credit service, all these things.
And then I think that the extremism of the right is really starting to hurt the LGBTQ community. If you see what’s going on in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, all these attacks on our community are fed by the same misinformation and extremism that led to the insurrection. We need to put a stop to that. We need to say ‘absolutely not’ across the board. But it seems they are really going in on the private lives of people, so whether that be reproductive rights or people’s identities, or even talking about being LGBTQ, that extremism I think is stopping common sense solutions. That’s what the government should be doing, passing common sense solutions.
What did your work at the Victory Fund teach you about the importance of electing LGBTQ officials?
It shows that people who are authentically from their community and truthful about their identity are really valued by voters and really good elected officials. LGBTQ people bring in honesty and empathy to their work that is unmatched because we have to be honest about the hardest thing we will ever have to be honest about, and that’s our identity. Telling people the truth about budgets or climate change is nothing compared to that struggle. I think it offers to emphasize the people who our government is not working for. And it’s not working for a lot of people right now.
When LGBTQ people step up to run, they’re not doing it to make history, they’re not doing it to be an elected person in office; they’re doing it to make sure that they have an advocate in government, not only for LGBTQ people, but for their community. That’s exactly what I want to be and we’re working hard to make sure that happens.
How do we get every-four-years voters excited about local races?
I’ve been an organizer in the district where I’m running my whole life, and getting people out every single year to vote is something that I’ve been doing. It’s about talking about the issues and the actual direct impact the government has on everyone’s life. I think that whether it’s the impact of what was passed in the infrastructure bill when it comes to mitigating climate change and helping fix infrastructure, that’s something that’s directly relatable to people.
Then at the local level, those folks can raise your taxes, lower your taxes, they can pass nondiscrimination, and sadly in Pennsylvania we’ve seen they can also repeal nondiscrimination protections. You’ve got to organize and you’ve got to have those conversations. That’s something that I’ve been doing in this community for a long time and will certainly continue to do once elected.
How do you feel about your campaign?
I feel great. I feel like we really have a strong momentum. We outraised all of our opponents in the last fundraising quarter in just seven weeks. They had the full three months, we just had seven weeks and we outraised all of the Republicans and all the Democrats. We just finally got our district a week ago now, and that is now more Democratically safe. It was an R+2, it’s a D+1 now so it’s still a very important swing state when it comes to control of the U.S. Congress. If we lose this seat the Democrats will lose control of the House majority. And also just being able to keep a seat and make some LGBTQ history, so a lot of momentum and energy is beating off of that as well.