A New York investment banker has become the first-ever openly gay Republican elected to the U.S. Congress after facing off against a gay Democrat in a Long Island congressional race.
George Devolder-Santos, 34, won the open seat race for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, representing parts of Nassau County and the borough of Queens, over Robert Zimmerman by more than an eight-point margin. Santos replaces outgoing Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination to be the Empire State’s governor.
The election itself was historic, in that it was the first time two out LGBTQ candidates nominated by major parties were pitted against each other in a general election for Congress.
Upon taking office, Santos will be the third LGBTQ Republican to ever serve in Congress, and the first to be fully out when elected. Former U.S. Reps. Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin both came out after first being elected. Former U.S. Reps. Mark Foley of Florida and Aaron Schock of Illinois came out after leaving office.
Santos, whose grandparents were Ukrainian Jewish refugees who first fled to Belgium and then later to Brazil during World War II, will also be the first Brazilian-American to serve in Congress.
Santos proudly wears his political affiliation, telling NBC News in a September interview: “As a lifelong Republican, I have never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party. I am an openly gay candidate. I am not shy.”
Santos made headlines earlier this year after he alleged that his fiancé, a pharmacist, was fired after The New York Times wrote a story about former President Donald Trump’s decision to hold a New Year’s Eve Party at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and linked to an Instagram photo showing Santos and his fiancé in attendance and not wearing masks. The paper did not mention or refer to either man by name.
Santos also claimed that he and his fiancé were forced to leave their home with their four dogs after the Times linked to the Instagram photo, tweeting: “The violence against us is real.” It is still unclear how the photo led to his fiancé being fired — given that Florida had no statewide mask mandate at the time — or what type of threats had been received that required the couple to flee their home.
Santos was one of those who traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend former President Donald Trump’s rally on January 6, 2021, telling Lara Trump during an appearance on The Right View that he was at the Ellipse at the time of the rally, during which Trump contested the results of the presidential election and called on members of Congress not to certify the results due to speculations about voter fraud in states won by President Joe Biden.
Santos has called January 6 a “sad and dark day” due to the unrest and the skirmishes between Trump supporters and Capitol police that occurred at the U.S. Capitol building later that day, and has denied ever being physically at the Capitol. But he was filmed by a Democratic activist, allegedly claiming to have cut a “nice check to a law firm” to get some of the people who had been arrested that day out of jail.
Santos, who obviously supports same-sex marriage in his personal life, has shrugged off the idea that same-sex marriage needs to be codified into federal law, according to Business Insider. He — like many other Republicans — has downplayed the need for legislation like the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed the House earlier this summer with 47 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
He has also expressed skepticism about the possibility of the U.S. Supreme Court reversing its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage and has dismissed Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in a recent abortion case — which suggested that the court revisit its same-sex marriage decision and other cases involving unenumerated rights — as only a “legal essay” that was not endorsed by the other five conservatives currently seated on the high court.
Santos has also defended Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers for pushing the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 and requires that any instruction touching on LGBTQ-related material in older grades be “age or developmentally appropriate.”
Critics of the law, which DeSantis signed into effect, have claimed that it will be unevenly enforced by administrators with their own biases, or may be used to suppress the free speech rights of out LGBTQ students like Will Larkins, who was reportedly “investigated” for a history class presentation on the Stonewall Uprising; Zander Moricz, who was gagged from talking about his LGBTQ activism during a graduation speech; or Jack Petocz, who was suspended (with the suspension ultimately being overturned) and told he’d be barred from running for class president for organizing a student protest against the law.
“As a gay man, I stand proudly behind not teaching our children sex or sexual orientation,” Santos said in a Facebook video in April defending passage of the law. “DeSantis, you have my full-blown support, and I support your decision to protect our children’s innocence. I stand proudly behind the Florida legislature for putting a decent bill that will protect values.”
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