Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, both of New York, made history Tuesday night as the first two openly gay Black men to be elected to Congress.
The Democratic representatives-elect will enter the House in January. Jones won a June primary to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey in New York’s 17th District. Torres, who is also of Latino heritage, won his primary to replace Rep. José Serrano, a 16-term Democrat who was retiring from his seat in the 15th District. Seven years ago, Torres became the first openly gay elected official to serve on the New York City Council.
Both men expressed gratitude for their respective victories on social media.
“Tonight, we made history,” Torres, 32, tweeted. “It is the honor of a lifetime to represent the essential borough, the Bronx.”
Jones, 33, said early Wednesday that he was “grateful to serve the community that raised me” ― specifically, the towns of Westchester and Rockland, New York.
Their wins were praised by fellow lawmakers as well as LGBTQ advocacy groups like GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. Many interpreted the news as two high points in a contentious election season with a presidential race that remained undecided as of Wednesday evening.
“Mondaire and Ritchie have shattered a rainbow ceiling and will bring unique perspectives based on lived experiences never before represented in the U.S. Congress,” LGBTQ Victory Fund President Annise Parker said in an email statement. “Their elections will end any doubts about the electability of Black LGBTQ men to our nation’s highest legislative body. It will also inspire more young LGBTQ leaders and leaders of color to run and serve.”
“Representation matters, and our community is making history,” National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director David Johns said. “We all need windows and mirrors to help us make sense of who we are and how we show up in the world, and this is especially true for Black trans, queer, and non-binary people who rarely see affirming examples of ourselves reflected in the world.”
Jones and Torres were just two of what’s been described as a “rainbow wave” of LGBTQ officials who swept to victory Tuesday. Also making history was Delaware’s Sarah McBride, who became the highest-ranking openly transgender official in the U.S. after winning a seat in her state Senate.
“Growing up poor, Black, and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone win,” Jones told The New York Times in June after winning the primary. “Indeed, in the 244-year history of the United States, there has never been an openly gay, Black member of Congress. That changes this year.”