Senator Tammy Baldwin talks equal rights under Trump and LGBTQ representation

As the midterm elections approach in November and the country grapples with the political status quo, Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been regularly repeating her motto: “You can’t mistake progress for victory.” The Wisconsin Democrat, who broke glass ceilings twice to become the first openly gay member to be elected to the House (and later the Senate), has been around to witness firsthand some of the country’s biggest shifts around women’s and LGBTQ rights. But under the Trump administration, Sen. Tammy Baldwin isn’t taking anything for granted.

“We made remarkable progress very quickly during the Obama administration,” Baldwin tells me in an interview for Elite Daily. “Some of that was in the Congress, some of it was the president, and some of it was the courts.” Notably, in June 2015, during President Barack Obama’s second term in office, theSupreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide with its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Now, with President Trump, we’ve seen some of that progress come to a screeching halt,” she says, “and efforts to roll back progress made for the LGBTQ community.”

Baldwin, currently the only out LGBTQ member of the Senate, is one of just two LGBTQ women in Congress overall. The other is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who represents Arizona’s 9th District. According to the Victory Institute, which works to increase LGBTQ representation in government, despite making up 4.5 percent of the population, Americans who identify as LGBTQ comprise just 0.1 percent of the nation’s elected officials. But that may be about to change.

Almost 400 LGBTQ candidates are running for office across the country this year, according to The New York Times, in what’s being called a “Rainbow Wave.” Among them are several LGBTQ women running for the House. If even a few of them are successful in their races, the House could see a record number of female LGBTQ representatives. And that representation could double in the Senate, too: On Aug. 28, Sinema won the Democratic primary for one of Arizona’s seats in the Senate, where she could join Baldwin. But that gamble cuts both ways.

Sen. Baldwin, too, is up for re-election this year, and in a state that went for Donald Trump in 2016, it’s far from a sure win. So, the stakes are clear: A win for both Baldwin and Sinema would break the record for LGBTQ members in the Senate, but losses for both this November would leave the Senate devoid of female LGBTQ representation.

“The severe underrepresentation of LGBTQ people in elected office — especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender and bisexual people — is one of the primary reasons we see hateful legislation and policies coming from the federal government and many state legislatures,” says Mayor Annise Parker, President and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute in a statement to the Victory Institute.

In the last two years especially, Baldwin has been on the front lines to see numerous decisions against women’s and LGBTQ rights come down the pipeline.

Compared to the Obama administration, the LGBTQ community now faces a very different political landscape. The Supreme Court, with two new Trump-appointed justices, is now likely to sway conservative. In the West Wing, Vice President Mike Pence has a fairly well-documented history of opposing gay marriage, and his political record is alarming to LGBTQ advocacy groups who have interpreted his views as condoning conversion therapy, though his spokesperson denied that this was the case. In February, the Trump administration took steps to undo federal protections for health care for LGBTQ workers. And questions remain whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, was involved in the Bush administration’s push to ban same-sex marriage while serving as White House staff secretary.

“As both a woman and a member of the LGBTQ community, I talk to many who are very frightened about what’s happening right now — whether it’s about health care, women’s rights, [or] LGBTQ equality,” Baldwin says. “I think it’s a frightening time.”

Read more at Elite Daily.