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Laphonza Butler makes history as first LGBTQ Black woman in the U.S. Senate


“Extraordinarily proud of Laphonza Butler - a stalwart for women, workers, the disadvantaged, and those in search of a better life. She understands the contours of power and knows that when shared, it multiplies. She’s the right choice at the right time.”

– Stacey Abrams

She led a push for fair wages that has boosted the pay of at least 26 million workers, including 12 million workers of color and 18 million women.

She helped elect nearly 500 defenders of abortion rights – 40 percent of whom are women of color – to local, state, gubernatorial and federal office last year.

She is the first openly LGBTQ Black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and only the third Black woman to serve.

Laphonza Butler’s appointment to replace the late Sen. Diane Feinstein could not have happened at a more critical moment for the people and principles she has championed for her entire career. It’s a moment when extremists across the nation are engaged in an unprecedented crusade to suppress LGBTQ voices, erase Black history, criminalize reproductive health and weaken workers’ rights.

Butler spoke powerfully about her vision for the country on the National Urban League’s State of Black America Podcast last year while she was serving as president of EMILY’s List.

“An incredibly important indicator of how a leader is going to show up on behalf of their community when they are elected is whether or not they respect the right of women to make choices about their own health and their own bodies,” she said. “And when they do, when they are positive in that position, they are more likely to support issues like child care, issues like paid family leave, issues like making sure that health care is more accessible and available. There are lots of issues voters should be concerned about, but at its core is the fundamental freedoms of this country and what we want this country to be for generations to come.”

It’s not just her perspective as an openly LGBTQ Black woman that is sorely needed in the Senate, but also her working-class background. “There were times in my life where I didn’t know, my mother didn’t know, where my next meal was coming from,” Butler told Politico. “There were days she worked three jobs all in the same day to make sure she was able to keep a roof over our heads.”

At Jackson State University, many of her professors were SNCC activists and CORE organizers who instilled in her a commitment to social justice and activism.

“They took those experiences and poured them into us in the classroom,” she said.

“What are you doing for freedom? That was always the question. What are you doing for freedom today?”

When she became the first mother to lead Emily’s List in its four-decade history, she said her own daughter “inspires me every day to show up and do the work to make sure every young girl knows they belong anywhere they choose to be.”

Marc H. Morial is the president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest civil rights organization.