Democratic Strategist Laphonza Butler was sworn in to the United States Senate by Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on October 3rd, 2023 in a historic appointment by Governor Gavin Newsom. She will be filling in the seat left behind by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein was a champion of Women’s Rights who served in the U.S. Senate from 1992-2023 and broke gender barriers throughout her entire political career. Butler will also be a pioneer, becoming the first out Black Lesbian in American history to serve Congress. She is also the second black woman to represent California in the senate after Vice President Kamala Harris.
According to the Governor’s Office, Butler will champion the same issues that Feinstein did, from reproductive freedom, to equal protection under the law, to gun violence. Following the ceremony, Butler stated: “No one will ever measure up to the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein, but I will do my best to honor her legacy and leadership by committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California. I am ready to serve.”
Butler is a longtime labor leader and an open and dedicated advocate for women and working people. President Barack Obama named Butler as a “Champion of Change“. She previously led strategy efforts for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, served as senior advisor to Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign and ran California’s largest labor union. Following these achievements, Butler became the president of EMILY’S List, an American political action committee that champions reproductive and pro-choice rights.
Across the nation, prominent figures, civil rights organizations, congressional groups, and every day American citizens have issued statements to celebrate Butler’s historic appointment. “Laphonza Butler is a coalition builder, dedicated advocate, friend, and trusted advisor,” Vice President Kamala Harris said. “She brings her passion for advancing opportunity, equity, and justice to all of her work and will be an excellent United States Senator for California at this critical moment in our history,”
GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis tweeted, “Laphonza Butler’s appointment is so important for LGBTQ people, Black people, & women not only in California, but throughout the country. Our freedoms are under attack to be ourselves, make our own health care decisions, & have our votes and voices secured.”
Other LGBTQ+ voices have chimed in as well, such as Equality California’s Executive Director Tony Hoang, who said, “Laphonza Butler is eminently qualified to represent California well in the United States Senate and we are thrilled to congratulate her. This historic appointment by Governor Newsom will give our LGBTQ+ community another voice in Congress at a time when our rights and freedoms are under attack across the country. We look forward to working with Laphonza as she steps into this new role and continues her lifelong fight for our shared values of equity, freedom and justice for all.”
Although there has been increasing attention called to the prevalence of LGBTQ+ identities and issues, partially due to social media, LGBTQ+ people have little representation in Congress. According to Pew Research, as of January 2023, there have only been 13 LGBTQ+ representatives in Congress, 11 being in the House of Representatives and 2 in Congress.
Butler will bring a deeply necessary point of view and depth of experience to the U.S. Senate, especially since two thirds of California’s residents are people of color, and 9.1% of Californian adults identify as LGBT. Furthermore, Butler is an integral part of the Californian political community, demonstrating commitment to servicing working class people and abortion rights. Only two Black women have served in the U.S. Senate prior to Butler’s appointment, Harris and Carol Moseley Braun.
Overall, Butler’s new position reflects the importance of representation for people who sit at the intersection of multiple systems of oppression, and is a nod to the many ways Black women and Black LGBTQ+ women continue to show up, time and time again, making meaningful change in their communities. I look forward to seeing the strides that Butler makes in advancing representation for her constituents and the diverse communities they belong to.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.