Analysis: Midterm elections have high stakes for LGBTQ voters

It’s in every fundraising email from candidates on both sides of the aisle: the 2022 midterms could be the most important election in history because they will define who controls the House and Senate. 

Some would argue that the most important election was 2016 and Democrats flubbed it, but the stakes for historically marginalized groups like women, people of color and LGBTQ people are truly high come November. Primaries saw so-called moderate Republicans ousted and bested by MAGA GOP candidates endorsed by Donald Trump, including in Pennsylvania’s senate and gubernatorial races. 

Abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, gun control, voting rights, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all at risk. Right now Democrats in the Senate have a one-vote majority due to Vice President Harris serving as the tie-breaker. In the House, only eight seats stand between San Francisco-based Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a life-long allyship to LGBTQ people, progressive causes and reproductive freedom, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who led 140 House Republicans to decertify the election on January 6, 2021 and who opposes abortion rights, is anti-LGBTQ, and wants to investigate Attorney General Merrick Garland and impeach President Biden. 

As PGN has reported all year, anti-LGBTQ legislation is proliferating nationally with hundreds of bills in process even in blue and purple states. The range of bills include policy proposals that would limit school curricula, as in the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill, or ban books with LGBT+ information.

There are also bills that would allow religious exemptions with regard to anti-discrimination laws, as the foster care case in Philadelphia that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021, as well as the case of a designer who won’t make same-sex wedding websites; a case that will be heard again this session of the U.S. Supreme Court. Other bills would either limit or ban trans people from playing sports on teams in line with their gender identity, using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, or receiving gender-affirming health care.

In Pennsylvania, bills to exclude trans athletes from women’s sports as well as a variation on the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” are being considered. In June the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee moved forward with SB 1277 and SB 1278. The first bill is sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and has is been called “a book and education ban on gay and lesbian relationships,” by activists. The second, sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), is called by the Pennsylvania Youth Congress “an expansive gag order for school personnel on LGBT issues, forces the outing of vulnerable students to parents or guardians, and creates a private right of action if those terms are violated, among other cruel provisions.” 

Last week, Pennsylvania state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton) introduced legislation to “ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools through the fifth grade.” Borowicz told  supporters during a news conference that her bill was modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. 

Borowicz says that policy that would ban topics including sexual orientation and gender identity from the classroom should extend through high school. Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor, supports Borowicz’s plan.

While these local battles to curtail LGBTQ civil liberties are waged in the legislature, the fight to maintain LGBTQ rights in laws already enacted are also in play ever since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with Obergefell v. Hodges and even Lawrence v. Texas having come under fire with Justice Clarence Thomas saying they should be overturned. 

In the latest U.S. Census it was estimated that there were 568,110 same-sex married couple households and 412,116 households with same-sex unmarried partners living together. 

The Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify Obergefell, will not be voted on in the Senate until after the midterms — which means every vote toward holding the Senate is critical. If that Act passed, it would protect the right to marry for same-sex and interracial couples.

Albert Fujii, press secretary of the Victory Fund, said in a recent interview, “So many of our freedoms and rights are on the line, the majority of states still have trigger bans on marriage equality, most of which are at the state legislative level, meaning that if Obergefell were to fall, similar to what happened after Roe, those trigger bans would go into effect pretty quickly.”

Victory Fund is the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office. Victory Fund has endorsed 464 candidates running in the 2022 midterms, the most in the organization’s 31-year history.

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of Victory Fund, said in a statement, “The stakes of this election could not be higher for the LGBTQ community and our allies, with anti-LGBTQ legislation and attacks on our right to privacy moving through legislatures across the country, including the U.S. Congress.” 

Parker said, “The good news is that with a Rainbow Wave of candidates running like never before, it is also clear the LGBTQ community’s political power is stronger than ever. With just forty days until the midterm election, we must do everything in our power to ensure these highly qualified LGBTQ candidates win on Election Day. This is a moment for action. We are fired up, we are motivated and we are unified.”

Fujii said there are at least 1,050 LGBTQ candidates this year, the most in history. The last record was 2020 when 1,006 LGBTQ people ran for office.  

Fujii said that “Maura Healey running in Massachusetts and Tina Kotek running in Oregon would be the nation’s first lesbian governors.” 

Fujii added, “Maura is currently the Attorney General of Massachusetts, a position she’s held since 2014 when she became the nation’s first LGBTQ state Attorney General.”

He explained that Tina Kotek has a long history in state office. “Tina served in the Oregon state House until she announced her gubernatorial run. She was first elected to the state House in 2006 and then made history in 2013 when she because the first lesbian Speaker of any state House in the country. She served as Speaker from 2013 until 2022.”

A lot is on the line for LGBTQ people in this election, locally and nationally. Your vote is your voice. Register now.