Soapbox

LGBT voters can make a huge difference. Here’s why

Protesters hold signs during a rally in support of transgender youth on Feb. 23, 2017, at the Stonewall National Monument in New York.
Protesters hold signs during a rally in support of transgender youth on Feb. 23, 2017, at the Stonewall National Monument in New York. AP

As the Trump administration continues to attack the freedoms that support our immigrant, LGBTQ and youth populations, Sacramento’s diverse community has an opportunity to vote out that hate during one of the most divisive times in our history.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that 50 percent of Asian Americans, 53 percent of Latinos and 58 percent of African Americans are likely to vote, compared to 75 percent of whites. In other words, non-Hispanic whites, who are a minority in California, could have more influence in the Nov. 6 election.

Opinion

These troubling statistics show the opportunity for Sacramento’s communities of color to more fully engage and make the capital city a model for voting in California.

A significant but rarely acknowledged factor involves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. Identifying as LGBTQ intersects across racial, ethnic, gender, religious and socio-economic backgrounds, so LGBTQ people are uniquely positioned to improve voter turnout and make a difference in the election results.

David Heitstuman.jpg
David Heitstuman

The sting of the 2009 statewide ballot measure to eliminate marriage equality for same-sex couples still hurts. A small segment of the population decided for the rest of us, and sadly the full reach of our community did not represent themselves.

There will continue to be consequences if we don’t show up and vote as we face even greater challenges and threats. Today, the transgender population, in particular, is under siege with dozens of Trump administration anti-LGBTQ actions and ongoing threats to roll back protections for transgender people.

This should motivate LGBTQ communities in California to organize, to seek representatives who will fight for our values and even run for office ourselves.

Educating youth how to register and vote has been a priority at the Sacramento LGBT Community Center. Imagine the outcome of close races with the increased engagement of younger voters, who now outnumber both baby boomers and Gen Xers. According to a poll released last year by Equality California, 16 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ in California. Their votes would shift the balance of power in close races toward more inclusive values.

Let’s harness the interconnected power of our diverse racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic makeup and come out in force to support candidates and issues that reflect our values.

David Heitstuman is executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center. He can be contacted at david.heitstuman@saccenter.org.

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