2023 Political Year in Review

Our liberation is bound to each other

Elections are over, and we take stock as the sun hangs low in the sky.  2023 has been a year with several victories, but at the same time, it’s been a year with increased political attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community and trans people in particular.  The GOP has turned the existence of trans people into a wedge issue it can use to fundraise while making the landscape more dangerous for trans people trying to live and prosper as themselves.  The University of Pittsburgh hosting transphobic speakers brought this reality directly into our faces.  So as we go into 2024, our political goals should be crystal clear: the safety and success of the socially marginalized – trans, BIPOC, immigrant, and unhoused people.

A major success for Pennsylvania was the election of four new statewide judges. Dan McCaffery brings a trans-affirming mindset to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and cements a Democratic majority.  Jill Beck and Timika Lane joining the Superior Court likewise bring fairness and empathy to that court.  The election of Matt Wolf to the Commonwealth Court flips the court majority so that all three statewide appellate courts are controlled by judges elected as Democrats.  On the federal side, President Biden has appointed 166 judges, two-thirds are female, and also two-thirds from non-white communities, creating the most diverse judiciary in our nation’s history.  These changes won’t fix our justice system, but they will contribute to the long moral arc of justice, fairness, and equitability for all people in the United States.

One of the biggest surprises from 2022 was the flip of the State House of Representatives, gaining a majority for the first time since maps were badly gerrymandered following the 2010 election.  This is a major victory for fair maps, which were mandated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And the government has maintained a Democratic majority, through multiple special elections, the most recent being Lindsey Powell. And Democrats have put this majority to work, passing The Fairness Act for the first time in the State House.  This legislation would mandate non-discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people in all walks of life in Pennsylvania, and if the State Senate flips in 2024, it could become law. Maintaining and building these Democratic majorities makes meaningful steps towards a just society.

While the first out Pittsburgh City Council Member, Bruce Kraus, has retired, across Allegheny County, multiple LGBTQIA+ leaders were elected to Township and Borough Councils.  Representation matters.  Having a presence on these town councils brings the needs and concerns of our community to the forefront.  Good governance cannot happen without all constituent communities represented, so everyone reading this is encouraged to serve on a committee or run for office in 2025 or 2026!

Allegheny County can also expect election integrity and a county that helps working families with the election of Sara Innamorato as County Executive; her transition team includes LGBTQIA+ leaders to represent the needs of our community to the County Government.   Innamorato ultimately triumphed over Rockey, being outspent by a 3 to 1 margin as outside money poured into Allegheny County. GOP mega-donor Jeffrey Yass gave $56 million in 2022 to anti-choice Republicans, spent heavily in 2023 in Pennsylvania and Allegheny County, and has his eye set on the 2024 PA Senate race, supporting Connecticut resident and HedgeFund CEO David McCormick, already spending over $1 million on the candidate.  Meanwhile, Stephen Zappala won the District Attorney race, in a campaign openly hostile to magistrates incorporating restorative justice practices such as non-cash bail, showing that Allegheny County is not immune to conservative back-sliding and that Republican money paying for political attacks can still have electoral pay-offs.

As we say goodbye to 2023 and greet 2024, it is important to look beyond the horizon and keep our political goals in mind.  Organize your friends and neighbors.  Advocate for what you want and what you think is good for your community. The Democratic Party often goes astray and needs a variety of voices to get it back on track.  But what we can not do is let homophobic, transphobic, and racist politicians take over our government – the lives, safety, and well-being of our community are at stake.  And the only way to counter big money is people power.  Our liberation is bound to each other.  As the sun rises higher in the sky, let’s make 2024 our year. 

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