International LGBTQ Leaders Conference a rousing success

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Over 500 people from around the nation and around the world attended the three day 2017 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington DC. There was a much different vibe at this meeting than in 2016 which was held less than a month after Donald Trump was elected President. Victory Institute who sponsors the conference works to increase the number of LGBTQ people in public office and to provide programming, service and other support to help ensure their success. According to their website “Victory Institute was launched as Victory Foundation in 1993 to begin training current and future LGBTQ candidates and campaign workers to ensure a successful career in public service. The Victory Institute expanded its programming to include the Presidential Appointments Initiative – which works to place openly LGBTQ appointees in pro-equality presidential administrations – and the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference, an annual conference that attracts hundreds of openly LGBTQ elected and appointed officials.” Unfortunately when Trump was elected the Presidential Appointments Initiative could basically close up shop but there is always 2020 to look forward too.

This year there were a slew of recent victories to celebrate. Transgender persons had recently been elected to office across the nation with one of the highlights of election night being the victory of Danica Roem in Virginia’s 13th state legislative district who handily defeated Bob Marshall; he being called the ‘poster boy’ for sexism and homophobia in Virginia.

A surprise but not totally unexpected announcement was made during the breakfast plenary on Friday morning. Aisha Moodie-Mills, who has been with the organization for a little over two years, was given the opportunity to tell attendees she was going to step down as President and CEO of both the Victory Fund and Victory Institute minutes before the organization released a press announcement saying former Houston Mayor Annise Parker will be the new leader of both organizations effective immediately. The announcement went on to say “The transition comes as both organizations prepare for the enormous opportunities in the 2018 election cycle – with more LGBTQ candidates running for elected office than ever before. Mayor Parker’s experience as a former elected official, as well as decades of experience leading numerous organizations, will position Victory Fund and Victory Institute to be a vital player in electing LGBTQ people in the years ahead.”

Ms. Parker is the right leader at the right time for an organization that has struggled a little in recent years. For the LGBTQ community both Victory Fund and Victory Institute are crucial components to electing more members of the community to positions at every level of government from City Council to Congress. As Barney Frank once said, “If we are not at the table we are on the menu”.

During the Friday morning plenary Roddy Flynn, Executive Director of the Equality PAC , very ably moderated a panel of four impressive members of the LGBTQ community running for Congress. They included Angie Craig who is running in MN 2nd district, Gina Ortiz Jones running in San Antonio, Pat Davis running in New Mexico and David Richardson running in Florida’s 27th district. These four spoke eloquently about what it means for an LGBTQ person to run and talked about how they are running. Each of them said they are running on the issues of their community and on their broad wealth of experience. Angie was a leader of a fortune 500 company, Gina was in the military and a national security professional, Pat is on the City Council having begun his career with the Capitol Hill police force and David is a State legislator and CPA. When questioned about how being LGBTQ impacts their races Gina put it succinctly when she says her answer to a potential constituent who asks her about being ‘out’ and why she would even talk about it is “If I can’t stand up for myself how can I stand up for you?”.

These four individuals represent just a glimpse of the broad wealth of experience represented by those in the LGBTQ community who will be running for office in 2018.

During the meeting attendees heard from icons in the LGBTQ community including Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who is up for reelection, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) who is now running for Governor of Colorado and Ricardo Lara, California State Senator. They also heard from supporters of the community including members of the House of Representatives including Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Dan Kildee (D-MI). Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) also spoke but he seemed to not quite understand the audience he was speaking to. His speech while very moving seemed more appropriate for audiences not involved as intimately in politics as this audience. It was more like a campaign speech.

This conference grows each year. Baldwin kidded when she first ran for office and attended there were about fourteen people and it was more of a support group. My prediction is despite Donald Trump and his administration trying to roll back the progress made by the LGBTQ community, under the able leadership of Annise Parker it will continue to grow and we will see more and more members of the community elected. They will run and share what they have to offer with the electorate and people will vote for them. It most likely won’t happen in my lifetime but one day there will surely be an openly LGBTQ person as President. After all, why not?

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