Election Day Was a Massive Win for LGBTQ Legislators

The victories being called the 'rainbow wave.'
Then-LGBT rights activist Sarah McBride acknowledges applause at the end of her address on the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Then-LGBT rights activist Sarah McBride acknowledges applause at the end of her address on the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention in 2016. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

A nonbinary community organizer in Oklahoma, a transgender activist in Delaware, and a bisexual human resources director in Tennessee were among the many openly LGBTQ candidates elected to public office Tuesday night in what’s since been dubbed a nationwide “rainbow wave.” 

An unprecedented number of openly LGBTQ candidates ran for state, local, and federal seats this year—with more than 1,000 people entering races and 574 winding up on the ballot Nov. 3 according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which focuses on electing LGBTQ people at every level of government. The efforts of these candidates  could prime the country for a progressive shift, even amid the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on the LGBTQ community. 


As Wednesday afternoon, 160 of the 312 candidates endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund had won their races, while the results were undecided for 95 more endorsed candidates.

Some of the victories were historic.

Sarah McBride, a 30-year-old Democrat and national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, will become the nation’s first openly transgender state senator, and the highest-ranking trans official in the country, after winning her race to represent Delaware’s 1st Senate District.

“I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too,” McBride said in a tweet Tuesday. 

Separately, Mondaire Jones, 33, and Ritchie Torres, 32, will represent New York as the first openly gay Black men ever elected to U.S. Congress. Torres, an Afro-Latino New York City Council member, bested Republican Patrick Delices; Jones, a progressive lawyer, won his race against Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman, according to the New York Times. 

More than 30% of the LGBTQ candidates from this election cycle identified as people of color, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, many of them young by political standards. .

Some of Tuesday night’s LGBTQ victories surfaced in deep-red strongholds like Oklahoma and Tennessee, where President Trump otherwise won handily. 

Mauree Turner, a nonbinary Black Muslim, clinched a historic win to represent Oklahoma’s House District 88 in the statehouse, where she’ll be the country’s first openly nonbinary state legislator. (Turner uses both she/her and they/them pronouns.)


"For me, this means a lot," the 27-year-old Democrat, who is also queer, told The Oklahoman. “I have lived my whole life in the margins."

In Tennessee, where Trump was also a clear winner, 29-year-old Democrat Torrey Harris was one of the two openly LGBTQ people to claim a seat in the Tennessee General Assembly, where no openly LGBTQ person had ever served, according to WTVF, a CBS affiliate. Harris, who is Black and bisexual, will lead District 90, which includes part of Memphis, in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Currently, he’s the human resources director at the Shelby County Trustee’s office, according to WMC-TV, a Memphis NBC affiliate.

"I'm going to do all that I possibly can just to make sure that they get what they went and voted for — they get somebody who is going to advocate for public education, for healthcare, women's rights, for LGBT rights and for criminal justice reform,” Harris said about his district in an interview with the Commercial Appeal

Eddie Mannis, a gay Republican, also won his bid to represent Tennessee’s District 18, which includes part of Knoxville, in the statehouse.  

The Tennessee House of Representatives isn’t the only state legislative body to gain new LGBTQ members. Similar wins were notched in Florida, Kansas, and Vermont. 

Michele Rayner-Goolsby will be the first openly queer Black woman lawmaker to serve in Florida’s state legislature. She faced no Republican challenger on Nov. 3 and effectively won her race after the Democratic primary in August. Rayner-Goolsby will represent the state’s House District 70, which includes St. Petersburg. 


And Shevrin Jones, currently a Democratic state representative in Florida, will be the state’s first openly gay senator after he defeated a write-in candidate to represent Senate District 35. 

In New York, Jabari Brisport won a similar distinction. After an uncontested race on Nov. 3, the 33-year-old will represent New York Senate District 25 as the first openly queer person of color to serve in the state legislature, according to Patch. 

In Vermont, 26-year-old Taylor Small will serve as the first openly transgender legislator in the statehouse after she won a seat in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Stephanie Byers, who is also transgender, won her race to become a representative for Kansas House District 86, according to the Wichita Eagle, which cited unofficial results that don’t yet include provisional ballots and ballots postmarked by Tuesday. The Native American retired high school band teacher is believed to be  the first trans legislator elected in the Midwest, the Eagle noted.