What Comes Next?
This Friday, Nov. 20, from noon to 1 p.m. the Human Rights Campaign, along with numerous LGBTQ groups across Michigan, will host a webinar via Facebook Live to unpack the results of the 2020 election, up and down the ticket. HRC Michigan Political Director Amritha Venkataraman said the event was the result of discussions LGBTQ leaders in Michigan had post-election.
“We all came together after the election to talk about what these election results mean for the LGBTQ community and we realized that our folks wanted next steps, and they wanted a little bit more clarity about what they could be doing next to help keep moving LGBTQ rights forward, what policy changes might be happening or not be happening,” Venkataraman said. “We know so many of our folks were so heavily invested in the 2020 general election and they don’t want to stop. They want to keep doing work. And we want to make sure they have those opportunities.”
Those opportunities may include helping with the Georgia Senate races. If the Democratic candidates in Georgia both win their runoff elections, that will secure a tie on the US Senate. In that case, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would cast the deciding vote in the event of any tie.
“HRC is doing a lot of work in the Georgia Senate race,” Venkataraman said. “HRC has got an awesome team down in Georgia and the entire HRC family is helping out, so we’re definitely gonna be talking about that. Having the Senate flip to a Democratic majority would be a huge, huge gain for the Equality Act.”
The format will be a panel comprised of Venkataraman; Amy Hunter, executive director of OutFront Kalamazoo; and representatives from Equality Michigan and the ACLU. Each panelist will talk about a “next step” for the community. It will be broadcast on Facebook Live, which will enable community centers to share with their networks.
By her own estimation, the LGBTQ community made significant gains in the 2020 election, beginning with Biden and Harris at the top of the ticket. Venkataraman named some other wins — and losses.
“President-Elect Biden has always been a champion for LGBTQ rights,” Venkataraman pointed out. “Holding onto the U.S. House of Representatives is huge, as we’re trying to move the Equality Act. And flipping Michigan’s Supreme Court are all gonna be really, really impactful.
“Unfortunately, we did not flip the Michigan House, but there’s still a lot of work that can be done,” she continued. “We’ve got to keep folks engaged because 2022 is gonna be a really important election as well.”
For races big and small, campaigning during this election cycle looked very different from years past due to constraints resulting from the novel coronavirus pandemic. For HRC, it was no different. However, in the end, Venkataraman said she was pleased with how well her volunteers adapted.
“I think my volunteers did amazing,” she said. “They really stepped up and did better than I could’ve imagined. I think the LGBTQ community understands that we’re a community, and talking to each other and sharing our stories is the basis of our power. So even if we can’t do that via face-to-face conversations, we can still do that on the phone, on the internet, via text. I was just really proud of our volunteer community.”
Relieved and Energized
When asked how she felt upon learning the presidential race had been called for Biden, Venkataraman paused.
“I felt relieved,” she said. “It didn’t hit me quite at once. I let myself feel optimistic for the first time. Because working so hard toward the goal, you always want to be thinking about the thing that you can control, not the bigger picture. And I’m starting to get really excited about what a Biden administration can mean for America.”
Venkataraman also sounded energized to continue the work with partners all across the state.
“I think the way our community centers are working with each other and talking with each other and the collaboration has been excellent,” she said. “And that’s really unique. That doesn’t have to happen. That happens because we’ve got some awesome leaders here in Michigan and so I’m very excited that we have this opportunity and it’s happening so soon after the election so we can keep the work moving.”
Register online by clicking here, and learn more by visiting the organization’s Facebook page. This event is sponsored by HRC, Ruth Ellis, Affirmations, Stand with Trans, OutFront, Transgender Michigan, ACLU of Michigan, Great Lakes Bay Pride, Equality Michigan, OutCenter of Southwest Michigan, Out on the Lakeshore Community Center.