118th Congress breaks record for lesbian, gay and bisexual representation

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Sen. Tammy Baldwin
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 08: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) speaks at a bill enrollment ceremony for the Respect For Marriage Act at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 08, 2022 in Washington, DC. In a 258-169 vote, the House of Representatives passed the Respect For Marriage Act which ensures marriage equality for same-sex and interracial couples. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Thirteen voting members of the 118th Congress identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual – the highest number of openly LGB members in history. While small, the number of LGB lawmakers in Congress has steadily increased over the last decade.

A bar chart showing that the number of openly LGB lawmakers of Congress has increased over time. 13 members of the 118th Congress identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual; 11 did in the previous Congress.

Two senators and 11 members of the House of Representatives identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of lawmakers’ official biographies, campaign websites and news reports.

The previous Congress included a total of 11 LGB lawmakers. There have not been any openly transgender members of Congress to date.

The number of LGB members of Congress has more than tripled in recent years. In the 112th Congress of 2011-13, just four members – all representatives – identified as gay or lesbian (and none as bisexual), according to data from the Victory Fund, a political action committee that works to elect LGBTQ politicians.

In the current Senate, Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the first openly LGB person to serve in the chamber when she was elected in 2012, and Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona, is the first openly bisexual person to serve in either chamber.  

In the House, all but one of the 11 openly gay or lesbian representatives are Democrats. The exception is Republican George Santos of New York, who in the 2022 midterm cycle became the first openly gay, non-incumbent Republican to win a congressional election. (Since then, however, key aspects of Santos’ biography have been called into question.)

A map showing that members of 118th Congress include many notable firsts in LGB representation

Seven of the 11 openly gay or lesbian representatives in the House are returning members of Congress. The four newly elected members include Santos; Robert Garcia, D-Calif., the first openly gay immigrant elected to Congress; Democrat Eric Sorensen, the first out gay congressperson to represent Illinois; and Democrat Becca Balint, the first woman and first openly LGB person to represent Vermont

Eight of the 11 House members who identify as gay or lesbian are gay men and three are lesbians.  

Despite the steady increase in LGB representation on Capitol Hill, this group remains underrepresented compared with the U.S. population as a whole. The 13 LGB members of Congress account for about 2% of the 534 voting lawmakers as of Jan. 3, 2023. LGB Americans make up 6.5% of the adult population overall, according to a 2021 Gallup survey.  

The record congressional diversity in sexual orientation comes alongside several other milestones in LGBTQ political leadership in the United States.

In the November midterm elections, Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Tina Kotek of Oregon became the first openly lesbian governors in U.S. history.

And several state legislatures now include transgender or nonbinary lawmakers for the first time, including New Hampshire, which became the first state in the country to elect a transgender man to its state legislature.

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