Meet the LGBTQ congressman who could be the next assistant House speaker


Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) is making a serious bid for assistant speaker of the House.

This week, House Democrats are poised to choose their leadership for the 117th Congress, which will convene next year. One of the contenders for assistant speaker of the House, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), would be the first openly gay person to hold that leadership role.

Cicilline and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) are vying for the position after New Mexico's Ben Ray Luján, the current assistant speaker, was elected to the Senate. Cicilline is currently a senior member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Clark is vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Cicilline said the election "reinforces the need for someone in leadership who has a proven record of bringing people together and forging consensus," with a focus on keeping Democratic control of the House.

The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus endorsed Cicilline, who co-chairs the group, for the role last week.

"[I]t's critical that our community not lose its voice at the leadership table," the group said in a statement.

"As an LGBTQ man, he understands personally the damage that Donald Trump has done – especially to young LGBTQ Americans – through his words and deeds. We remain the only minority community that can still be discriminated against in 30 states," the group added.

The Human Rights Campaign has also endorsed Cicilline, saying he "has been the only LGBTQ voice at the leadership table" and praising his history of advocating for LGBTQ people, including his efforts over many years to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would provide explicit federal nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people.

He sponsored the Equality Act in 2019, which passed the House but has stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have blocked it.

Cicilline also advocated for nondiscrimination protections in COVID-19 relief legislation that were sought by a coalition of about 200 organizations, including LGBTQ groups, in a letter to members of Congress in April.

It's not just the House, though. LGBTQ groups are also pushing for representation in a Biden administration.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which is focused on getting more LGBTQ people into political life, has suggested a number of LGBTQ lawmakers and state officials to lead agencies, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin for the Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania secretary of health, for Department of Health and Human Services or the office of the surgeon general.

The group working on President-elect Joe Biden's transition to the White House recently announced that several LGBTQ people would be on its agency review teams.

In addition to endorsing possible LGBTQ leaders in the House, LGBTQ advocacy organizations have pushed for their own legislative agendas during a Biden administration, including the passage of the Equality Act, the BREATHE Act, which would divest taxpayer funding from policing, and the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, which would create incentives for hate crime reporting, among other provisions.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.