Chad Blair: The ‘Rainbow Wave’ Election Touches Hawaii’s Shores - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

The United States did not see a “red tsunami” in the November elections, as widely forecast. Democrats will keep the Senate while Republicans were — as of midday Tuesday — on the cusp of taking back the House of Representatives, albeit narrowly so.

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But a national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBT people “who can further equality at all levels of government” is boasting of a “rainbow wave” in the 2022 elections. LGBTQ Victory Fund winning candidates included Tina Kotek of Oregon, “one of the first out lesbian governors of any state.”

It’s not just hype. NPR reported Monday that the midterms “made history” with the most wins for openly LGBTQ candidates. “At least 340 candidates have won their races, beating the prior record of 336 in 2020. This year also saw 678 out LGBTQ candidates — the most ever — on the general election ballot.”

Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston who is now president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund and Victory Institute, had this to say on the election: “Tonight’s Rainbow Wave is a clear rebuke to the increased homophobia and transphobia sweeping our communities — and proves voters want to elect qualified LGBTQ leaders. With so much at stake this election, from the future of marriage equality to abortion, LGBTQ candidates’ grit and exceptional grassroots support is paying off.”

Screenshot Nov 15, 2022, from the Facebook page of the Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii
Screenshot of the Facebook page of the Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. 

Those candidates include several in Hawaii, which helped prompt the head of the Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii to proclaim that local voters “had re-elected and elected more out LGBTQIA+ officials in one election than ever before.”

I don’t know that that is the case. There are hundreds of people serving statewide, and I am obviously not going to bother to ask all of them their sexual orientation.

But Michael Golojuch Jr., who is chair for the Stonewall Caucus, stands by his claim. Reached by phone Monday, he emphasized the word “out,” which is an important distinction. I agree, as it would be inappropriate to publicly out an LGBT official whose sexual orientation is not publicly known.

I’ll talk about the candidates Golojuch named in a moment, but first a little explanation of language.

Per Associated Press style, Civil Beat uses LGBT, which most people know stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The acronym has been in common use for decades. LGBTQ adds “queer” to the acronym, although some prefer “questioning.” LGBTQIA+ adds “intersex” and “asexual,” although some use “allies” instead.

And the plus sign? It’s meant to cover anyone else who’s not included.

As for Hawaii’s Stonewall Caucus, it used to be called the LGBT Caucus. Stonewall refers to the uprising or riots at the Stonewall Inn in Lower Manhattan in New York City in late June 1969, which are generally considered to be the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the continental United States.

A Night Of Many Firsts

As NPR noted, Massachusetts also elected its first openly lesbian governor, Maura Healey. In Connecticut, Erick Russell became the first Black LGBT person elected to statewide office in U.S. history. And in California, Robert Garcia will be the first out LGBT immigrant elected to Congress.

In New Hampshire, James Roesener is now the first trans man ever elected to any U.S. state legislature. In Montana, Zooey Zephyr will be the first openly trans person in the state’s legislature. And in Alaska, the first three LGBTQ politicians were elected to the state legislature.

On a related note, NPR reported in September that Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis wed his longtime partner, “marking the first same-sex marriage of a sitting United States governor.”

Polis became the first openly gay man ever elected governor in the country, before having been the first openly gay man elected to the U.S. House. On Tuesday, he was reelected in a landslide.

A promotion for a Rainbow Town Hall during the election season.
A promotion for a Rainbow Town Hall during the election season. 

While these milestones are worth celebrating, Victory Fund also points out that the U.S. needs to elect more than 35,000 additional out LGBTQ people to office in order to reach equitable representation.

While same-sex marriage is the law of the land, Justice Clarence Thomas signaled that the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June might well lead to future rulings on contraception access, sexual intimacy and marriage equality.

Conservatives have also increasingly opposed the rights of transgender Americans and warned that schools are “grooming” kids.

And yet, there are also signs of progress. On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate is poised to vote on a bill to codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriage. Leading the charge is Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the first gay woman and the first openly LGBT non-incumbent elected to Congress. In 2012 she made history as the first LGBT person elected to the Senate.

‘Be Open And Honest’

Golojuch’s press release named six people elected or reelected to office in Hawaii this year: KipuKai Kuali‘i to the Kauai County Council; Adrian Tam, Darius Kila and Terez Amato to the Hawaii House of Representatives; and Tyler Dos Santos-Tam and Matt Weyer to the Honolulu City Council.

Several of the candidates who I spoke to emphasized that they were elected to serve diverse communities, not just the LGBT community.

“Our people have said no to the oppressive Republican agenda,” Amato said in an email. “Whether it is protecting children in schools, protecting women’s rights to medical care, your right to prosper and have a home, our environment, or to love and marry who you choose, reaffirming society’s protections at the state level is one of the most important jobs that any legislator can do.”

Speaker Michael Golojuch Jr. at GLBT rally held at the Capitol. 27 april 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Michael Golojuch Jr. at an LGBT rally held at the Capitol. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

But some also acknowledged the significance of the election of more LGBT candidates across the country.

“It is important for representation and to have a seat at the table so that a government that looks like the population can address the needs of the population,” said Tam, who was backed by Victory Fund. “LGBT candidates are no strangers to obstacles and adversity, and they are more than capable of doing the job of elected officials.”

Dos Santos-Tam, another Victory Fund pick, noted that Hawaii always prides itself on being a very diverse place.

“And I think that’s wonderful, but when it comes to sexual orientation it hasn’t always been as visible as many of the other ways that candidates identify themselves to the public,” he said. “It’s 2022, and I think it is high time that people be honest and open with themselves and their constituents.”


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

Good article, and this is the first time I've been made aware of some of the candidates you mentioned being openly gay. I have no problem with it. I question some people who I believe are gay that aren't out yet. It doesn't make a difference to me though. I'd like to see the day when we have an openly gay atheist running for office. Where is the atheist representation out there? Are there any openly Atheists serving in Congress currently?

Scotty_Poppins · 1 week ago

Politicians should be elected based on issues not sexual orientation. For the Victory Fund to say we need 35,000 more " out" politicians implies that they believe the opposite. They seem to think sexual orientation is more important than platforms and issues. Parker says our communities are being swept with waves of increased transphobia and homophobia . At the same time she lauds the "Rainbow Wave" . If her first statement were true, then the "Rainbow Wave" would not have occurred. No one is focused on politicians’ sex lives . Dos Santos-Tam won me over with the jar-openers.

palakakanaka · 1 week ago

To echo another poster's comment, I really have no interest in another person's sexual orientation. Rather, I find identity politics of any type discouraging. Many folks have had no trouble voting for people of any subgroup, like MLK Jr.'s dream to see people judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. Keep the private and the public separate!How is the LGBTQIA+ community being any different than evangelicals by running on these matters of identification?For myself, I simply will not vote for any candidate who seeks my vote in this way. Run on the issues and you might earn my support, but not by this tribal nonsense.

TannedTom · 1 week ago

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