WASHINGTON — Democratic Reps.-elect Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones made history Tuesday night, becoming the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress.
Both New Yorkers will enter the House in January. In June, Jones won the primary to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey in New York’s 17th District, and Torres won the primary to replace retiring Rep. José Serrano in the 15th District. Decision Desk HQ declared that both men will win those races Tuesday night.
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Torres became the first openly gay elected official from the Bronx when he was elected to the New York City Council seven years ago at age 25. In June’s congressional primary, he defeated Rubén Diaz Sr., a fellow member of the New York City Council who had a long history of anti-LGBTQ remarks. Within months of Diaz’s arrival to the city council in 2019, there were calls for his resignation after he said his colleagues treated him like an outcast because the council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” (The speaker of the city council, Corey Johnson, is gay.) In 2011, Díaz held a rally opposing marriage equality in the Bronx, while his granddaughter protested him across the street.
After beating Díaz, Torres told CBS, "Look, the triumph of an openly LGBTQ congressional candidate over a leading homophobic in state politics — that to me represents long-overdue poetic justice. What better way to celebrate Pride Month than to defeat the politics of homophobia?"
Jones also spoke to CBS about the possibility of being one of the first two openly gay Black men elected to Congress after winning his primary.
"It is a lot of responsibility," he said. "I'm happy to be providing that kind of representation for so many young people and older people all throughout my district and all throughout this country who have reached out to me and said, 'I'm so inspired by what you're doing. You give me hope and I can be my authentic self in a world filled with so much injustice,' and it's really an honor to be able to do that."
Torres is also the rare politician who has spoken openly about his mental health issues, an experience he compared to coming out in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News.
“I think my own acknowledgment of struggling with depression flows naturally from the experience of coming out,” he said. “The process of coming out, the integrity that it demands from you … has taught me how to be more open and honest about my struggle with depression. It teaches you an ethic of radical authenticity.”
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There are currently nine openly LGBTQ members of Congress, including Rep. Mark Takano, who became the first openly gay person of color in Congress when he was elected in 2012, and Rep. Sharice Davids, elected in 2018, who is the first openly gay woman of color in Congress.