There are only a dozen or so LGBTQ members of Congress who are publicly out, but per a new report from Axios, that may be about to change come November. The news outlet reports that at least 104 LGBTQ candidates announced this year they're vying for seats in the House or Senate in the midterms, with nearly 60 still in the running—an almost 20% spike over the 2020 midterms, when 87 LGBTQ candidates ran. This surge comes at a time when a record number of Americans identify as being a part of the LGBTQ community, and with recent polling finding that LGBTQ people are "highly motivated" to vote in the midterms.
Axios congressional reporter Sophia Cai notes in an interview that legislation targeting LGBTQ Americans in red states—e.g., Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, moves to deny gender-affirming medical care—has prompted much of this motivation to run for office. "I think many of the candidates that you see ... have been vocal about the discrimination they've faced in their personal lives," says Cai. Sean Meloy of Victory Fund, a PAC that supports LGBTQ candidates, agrees, telling the news outlet, "People know that their rights and their livelihoods are on the ballot and that who is [in office] helps influence the decision." Others frame it as not only an internal domestic issue, but also one that affects us on the global stage.
"The United States cannot outcompete other countries unless we establish equality under our laws so that people can achieve their human potential," says Will Rollins, who's trying to become the second gay man elected to Congress from California. One especially notable name running for a state House seat in Ohio: Jim Obergefell, whose lawsuit resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. "It was really just the realization that my experience fighting for marriage really did have a profound impact on me, and just this need to continue doing what's right," Obergefell, 55, tells Axios of his decision to run. (Texas Republicans at their convention last weekend dubbed homosexuality an "abnormal lifestyle choice.")