Rainbow Wave: Record Number of LGBTQ+ Candidates Elected to Office

Record Number of LGBTQ+ Candidates Elected to Office

Rainbow Wave: Record Number of LGBTQ+ Candidates Elected to Office

Ruthie Gustason, Co-Editor-in-Chief

     Approximately 244 openly LGBTQ+ legislators were elected to office in the November 2018 midterms, a record number ushering in a new sense of hope among LGBTQ+ voters. Many people are calling this a “Rainbow Wave.” Hope seemed to be the emotion most closely tied to the Rainbow Wave. While newscasters speculated over what could be accomplished with a more diverse government, kids here at Linn-Mar celebrated the increasing visibility and influence being gained by LGBTQ+ people.

“It’s kind of awesome when you see like, ‘oh, a lesbian got elected’ you know. It’s great, because it shows people feel comfortable and they’re just like, you know what, I can do it and I’m not going to let what gender I identify as or my sexuality define my success or what I can and cannot do in life. It just gives people that sort of confidence to do whatever they want, and it is great. It’s awesome,” said freshman Violet Escobar, a member of Spectrum.

Among those newly elected are Jared Polis, the first man to be openly elected to the office of governor in the United States, Sharice Davids, one of the first Native American women to be elected to Congress and the first openly lesbian candidate elected by Kansas, and Krysten Sinema, who is the first openly bisexual U.S. Senator and the first woman to be elected to the Senate by the state of Arizona.

In Iowa, there were two sitting LGBTQ+ legislators re-elected: State Senator Matt McCoy from the 21st District and State Representative Liz Bennett from the 65th District, both Democrats who identify as gay. There have been three other Iowa state politicians who have identified as LGBTQ+; Norman Jesse and Dan Johnston were partners who served in the state legislation from the late sixties to the early eighties (though they both remained in the closet until the end of their political careers), and Dan Lundby, who served as representative for Linn County from 2013 to 2015. All three were Democrats, and all three identified as gay.

Out of the 244 LGBTQ+ legislators taking office in January, only three belong to the Republican Party, and none of them were candidates for a federal office.

“A lot of times we see hate, and when that person is Republican, we tend to associate,” said Kat Power, a Linn-Mar teacher and the staff supervisor for Spectrum, the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.

“Does that reflect the Republican party? I have no idea,” said Sophomore Sam Alexman, one of Spectrum’s three presidents.

Iowa is home to Congressman Steve King, a radically conservative Republican who has been serving in the United States House of Representatives since 2013. He was recently re-elected for another term in the closest race of his career.

“I think Steve King was probably the biggest disappointment of this election cycle,” said Representative Liz Bennett. “I am happy he was challenged, and that it was so close. Overall, I feel very hopeful.”

Kids at Linn-Mar say they are also hopeful for change and have their own ideas of what our new government should be working on, and one of the first things on the list is legislation preventing conversion therapy.

“People don’t realize that it’s legal in so many places,” said Sophomore Connor French, another Spectrum President.

“I always found it to be a weird thing. I think it’s very strange that this thing- which is, blatantly, pretty barbaric- is still around,” said Junior Dashawn Williams, who participates in Spectrum to be a better ally for LGBTQ+ people. “If you were an extremist or a terrorist, that would not be condoned simply because of religion, but that’s why conversion therapy is still around.”

Carleigh Mach, the third Spectrum President, says that her priority is getting LGBTQ+ content in schools.

“It shouldn’t be on the individual kids to worm this into the classroom,” she said.

“Kids can grasp this concept, and kids do grasp this concept. It all starts with education,” said Alexman.

“We’ve always been here, and if we want to be included, it has to start with education. It has to start with kids,” said French. “It (accepting LGBTQ+ students) should be like [accepting] having a different hair color.”