The LGBTQ Victory Fund wants to take identity politics to a brand new level: redrawing districts so gay candidates can win office.
Given that the 2020 census results are in, 2021 will be a year of nationwide redistricting. The LGBTQ Victory Fund — which “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,” according to its website — is using the opportunity to pressure redistricting authorities to consider gay and lesbian populations as “communities of interest” in map-drawing, according to Politico.
That status is typically given to racial and ethnic groups so those groups can elect candidates from their communities; mapmakers draw districts so that large black or Hispanic populations, say, are kept contiguous, giving them voting power.
As Politico noted Wednesday, these “‘opportunity districts’ have contributed to explosive growth of people of color in elected office.” The outlet also pointed out that Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected politician in California, won office due to a redrawn district around the Castro, the center of San Francisco’s gay community.
Thus, the LGBTQ Victory Fund is convinced that with the right lobbying efforts, they can put more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in office — on the state, local and national levels.
“It’s about the awareness that these communities exist, and not to just ignore them and to dismiss them,” said Colorado state Rep. Brianna Titone, a man who identifies as a woman and the first trans state legislator in his state.
“We do have a collective voice that we want to be heard.”
On Thursday, the data states will use to draw new boundaries will be released by the Census Bureau. In advance of the release, the Victory Fund unveiled its “We Belong Together” campaign, which has two aims: to keep LGBT-centric areas intact in districts where they already exist and to assemble data on where LGBT voters live so that, presumably, they can create new “communities of interest.”
“Redistricting efforts in 2021 and 2022 will have enormous consequences for LGBTQ representation at every level of government — and the actions we take now will determine that future,” the group said on its website.
“Districts can be redrawn to encompass LGBTQ neighborhoods and communities and strengthen our voting power — increasing the number of LGBTQ elected officials. Or, lines can be drawn to intentionally or unintentionally fracture LGBTQ neighborhoods, depriving us of political power and diminishing our ability to elect LGBTQ leaders.”
“Thousands of redistricting authorities will draw new districts for school boards, city councils, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress in 2021 and 2022 — and the rules and officials involved vary enormously. Yet we must ensure these authorities build district maps that keep LGBTQ neighborhoods and community together, so we can leverage our political power — and they can’t continue to use the government to continue to discriminate against our community.”
In addition to redefining the LGBT community as a “community of interest” for redistricting purposes, the Victory Fund also said it must convince redistricting authorities to, “Identify concentrations of LGBTQ concentrations of LGBTQ people through census and population data, locations of LGBTQ neighborhoods and businesses, and even hate crime reports, among other data.”
The group plans to focus on Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan and Montana, where politicians don’t take an active role in redistricting but where nonpartisan commissions are in charge of drawing the maps, instead.
“Legislators can ignore public input,” Titone said, according to Politico. “They do it all the time.”
Where this will likely have the greatest effect is at the municipal level. One example both Politico and the LGBTQ Victory Fund brought up was Washington, D.C. While the nation’s capital has the highest LGBT population per capita in the nation, no openly gay members serve on its council at present.
“Could it be because a large chunk of areas where LGBTQ nightlife are centered are separated from other areas of LGBTQ strength? These are the questions that we need to ensure mapmakers answer,” the Victory Fund’s website read.
“We all know how consequential redistricting is for representation,” said Elliot Imse, spokesman for the Victory Fund, according to Politico.
“A line drawn in the middle of a neighborhood with a large LGBTQ population can be the difference between electing an LGBTQ person to city council or state legislature or having zero people in these places.”
As with all politics of this sort, though, redistricting through the “communities of interest” method doesn’t mean voters will end up with a legislator who better reflects the broader priorities of their district. It merely means they’ll end up with one who reflects the narrow identity issues of a group that makes up a large bloc of the constituency.
This is further complicated by the Victory Fund’s rather nebulous method of going about this (considering “hate crime reports” seems an odd and inexact way to make redistricting decisions) and what expressions of gender identity or sexuality — we’ve been reliably informed there is a panoply of these and they shift with shocking regularity — would have to be considered.
Redistricting via “communities of interest” has always been a dangerous slippery slope of identitarian balkanization — and we need look no further than the “We Belong Together” campaign to see where this goes from here.
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