Washington, DC LGBTQ Victory Fund the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office launched a first-of-its-kind national effort to ensure LGBTQ communities are considered and respected throughout the U.S. redistricting process. The "We Belong Together" project will support local partners, elected officials and redistricting entities in identifying concentrations of LGBTQ people and advocating for district maps that keep LGBTQ neighborhoods and communities together. The project comes as the U.S. Census Bureau releases new precinct-level population data this Thursday that will kickstart redistricting efforts nationwide.
Redistricting is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to increase LGBTQ representation in government by solidifying LGBTQ voting power within appropriately-drawn districts including city council, state legislative and congressional districts. "We Belong Together" and its partners will work to convince redistricting entities to:
Define the LGBTQ community as a "community of interest" for redistricting much like many other vulnerable populations so the interests and well-being of LGBTQ people are emphasized during the map-making process.
Identify and advocate for concentrations of LGBTQ people using population data, locations of LGBTQ neighborhoods and businesses, memberships in LGBTQ organizations, and even reports of anti-LGBTQ crime, among other tools.
"The drawing of district lines is enormously consequential to LGBTQ representation, yet historically our community has been largely absent from discussions on redistricting," said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. "A line drawn in the middle of a neighborhood with a large LGBTQ population or even a line drawn to cut off a corner of that neighborhood can be the difference between electing an LGBTQ person or having zero LGBTQ representation. With better LGBTQ population data and our community and redistricting entities educated about the importance of our inclusion, we can build LGBTQ political power for the next decade and beyond."
Visit the "We Belong Together" website for additional information and resources including an in-depth toolkit for LGBTQ redistricting efforts at LGBTQredistricting.com .
"We Belong Together" will focus on states with independent redistricting commissions including Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan and Montana but will support any local organizations, elected officials or redistricting entities that aim to make LGBTQ people a "community of interest." The project provides support by educating stakeholders about the importance of LGBTQ inclusion, providing resources and guidance on advocacy and population data collection, and partnering on testimonies to redistricting entities.
When explaining the impact of the effort, "We Belong Together" cites redistricting work in San Diego, which led to the creation of an "LGBTQ legacy seat" on the city council. In the early 1990s, LGBTQ advocates pulled together LGBTQ population data using as many sources as possible and successfully advocated for a council district that encompassed all of Hillcrest, a predominantly LGBTQ neighborhood. In 1993, after redistricting, Christine Kehoe won that city council seat, becoming San Diego's first out LGBTQ official. The seat has been held by an LGBTQ city council member ever since. Toni Atkins, now President Pro Tem of the California state Senate; Todd Gloria, now mayor of San Diego; and Chris Ward, now a California state Assemblymember; all held the seat in succession. The seat is currently held by out city councilmember Stephen Whitburn.
"When we build districts that keep LGBTQ neighborhoods together, we create LGBTQ legacy seats that serve as pipelines for out leaders to achieve even higher-level office," said Mayor Parker. "If LGBTQ community members in a small city come together to focus on this effort, they can elect their first LGBTQ schoolboard member, who in the future may be their first LGBTQ state legislator and then member of Congress."
Visit the "We Belong Together" website for more stories and information at LGBTQredistricting.com .
LGBTQ Victory Fund
LGBTQ Victory Fund works to achieve and sustain equality by increasing the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials at all levels of government while ensuring they reflect the diversity of those they serve.