LGBTQ groups offered praise and accolades for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced on Thursday that she would remain in Congress but would step down when the next legislative session begins in January, following nearly two decades as the Democratic Party’s top congressional leader.
Pelosi’s announcement comes as Republicans are poised to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January after picking up between seven and nine seats following last Tuesday’s midterm elections. While Democrats did not suffer the catastrophic losses that many had predicted, the party’s failure to maintain a hold on Congress gave the 82-year-old San Franciscan a path to stepping down on her own terms, rather than being pushed out the door by her fellow party members — as most political leaders typically are after a loss.
Throughout her tenure in Congress, Pelosi has been a steadfast and vocal ally of the LGBTQ community, speaking out in favor of marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, even early in her career, when such positions were not viewed as politically expedient. She has been an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ homeless youth, and same-sex couples looking to adopt, due in part to her lived experience and her encounters with LGBTQ people in her home city of San Francisco, as she told Metro Weekly in a 2019 interview.
U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the co-chairs of Equality PAC, the political arm of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, praised the outgoing House Speaker for her unassailable record as a champion of LGBTQ rights.
“From the moment Speaker Nancy Pelosi began her service in the House of Representatives, she was an ally to the LGBTQ community,” Takano and Cicilline said in a statement. “Upon her election in 1987, she immediately began working to solve the AIDS crisis — which had torn our community apart and hers in San Francisco as well — and from that moment, never stopped advocating for LGBTQ Americans.
“Speaker Pelosi’s support for advancing LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, and the Equality Act was unwavering. There is no doubt that her leadership in bringing these important issues to the House floor was instrumental in making life better for members of our community,” the statement continues. “We are eternally grateful for Speaker Pelosi’s unwavering dedication and friendship to the LGBTQ community over decades and we have no doubt that her life in service to the public will be remembered as nothing short of historic.”
Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory institute, had nothing but praise for the Speaker.
“I will forever remember Speaker Pelosi taking the gavel to become the first woman Speaker and know many women and girls changed their perceptions of what is possible that day,” Parker said in a statement. “Yet Speaker Pelosi stands for more than just gender equity. She is the most pro-LGBTQ Speaker in American history — constantly championing our rights and causes — and the relief and pride that came with having a fierce defender in that position cannot be understated.
“Her announcement today is a bittersweet moment,” said Parker. “Sweet in that she leave an incredible legacy on equality issues and bitter in that she will be forever missed as Speaker. We are grateful for her decades of service to the LGBTQ community and all Americans and trust she will remain one of our most powerful allies in Congress.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s top LGBTQ civil rights organization, also praised Pelosi and thanked her for her years of advocacy.
“Speaker Pelosi has always been the definition of an ally. From her groundbreaking floor speech in 1987 on the AIDS crisis to her forceful advocacy for marriage equality long before its mainstream popularity, Speaker Pelosi has been the tip of the spear on watershed advancements for the LGBTQ+ community,” Kelley Robinson, the organization’s incoming president, said in a statement.
“During her tenure as Speaker, the House of Representatives passed an historic hate crimes law, repealed the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, led the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act, and vocally opposed bans on transgender members serving in our nation’s military. Before the end of this term, the enactment of the Respect for Marriage will provide her with one more landmark achievement,” Robinson added. “Each and every moment when our community needed her, Speaker Pelosi has been there for us asking how to help. Without her commitment to progress and dedication to equality, our movement would be years if not decades behind where we proudly stand today.”
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