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Gay Political Power Reaching Record as U.S. Attitudes Shift

When gay Americans notched some of their biggest political victories in the last year for same-sex marriage and military service, opponents were already preparing an intense battle to roll back the new rights.

That onslaught, in state legislatures and Washington, has raised the stakes in the 2016 election for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which is trying to leverage its unprecedented political power to elect lawmakers who would extend federal protections at work and home to gay citizens, just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected race, religion and gender.

“It was easy to forget how big the challenge still is,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay congressman chosen by New Yorkers in 2012. “It’s more important than ever that we have people in elected office, that we have strong organizations in the community and that we continue to build alliances in the straight community.” The Republican majority in Congress is still hostile to these issues, he added.

The gay power base has never been stronger. Maloney is one of seven openly gay U.S. lawmakers — the most ever — and membership in the House LGBT Equality Caucus has surged 58 percent this session. There are about 500 LGBT politicians serving in elected office at all levels of U.S. government and almost 200 more running for office this year, including 11 for Congress, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports those candidates.

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