With Kamala Harris set to become vice president, there could be a vital opportunity to bolster LGBT+ representation in the US Senate.
Harris has represented California in the United States Senate since 2016, but is set to give up her seat in the chamber on January 20 as she assumes office as Joe Biden’s second-in-command.
Under the rules of the chamber, it will be up to Governor of California Gavin Newsom to appoint an interim senator to fill the seat temporarily, serving until a special election can be held to elect a full-time replacement for Kamala Harris.
LGBT+ campaigners have called on Newsom to use the opportunity to bolster queer representation in the Senate, which has only ever had two out LGBT+ members, Senators Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema.
Replacement of Kamala Harris could bolster LGBT+ representation in the US Senate
LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to bolster LGBT+ representation in politics, has suggested that Newsom could appoint either California state senate president Toni Atkins or Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia, two of the state’s most accomplished LGBT+ leaders, to serve in the seat.
Annise Parker of Victory Fund said: “Governor Newsom is one of the strongest allies we have in elected office and consistently shows courage in his efforts to advance equality, so we are hopeful he will add to his legacy with an LGBTQ appointment.
“Both Senator Atkins and Mayor Garcia represent communities too often denied political power – including women, immigrants and people of colour – furthering the impact their appointment would make.”
Parker continued: “Not just in California but across the country, the LGBTQ community would celebrate an LGBTQ leader taking the position and we will stand by them with resources and support to ensure they succeed.
“We hold immense pride in the leadership of our current LGBTQ US Senators and would be eager to rally behind an LGBTQ US Senator from the largest state in the nation.”
Senate will play a pivotal role in Biden years
The Senate is primed to play an outsized role in US politics during the early years of the Biden administration, with a nail-biting double election in Georgia set for January set to decide control of the chamber.
The best-case scenario for Biden would result in a 50-50 split in the chamber that would require his policy measures to attract support from every single Democratic senator.
If Republicans win the Georgia seats, however, they will maintain control of the chamber and could effectively block much of the president’s agenda, which could spell peril for Biden’s ability to deliver on key promises, including on LGBT+ rights.