Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin took the oath of office in the U.S. Senate on Jan. 3, becoming the first openly gay person to serve in that chamber.
"LGBT Americans have finally broken through a glass ceiling that held firm for more than two centuries," said Chuck Wolfe of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. "This is real progress – a victory for us all. And this is a moment to smile, celebrate and raise a glass to toast a record number of out federal lawmakers."
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D., in remarks at the opening of the Senate, offered "a special welcome to the 13 new members of the United States Senate. I am confident they will treasure their memories in this historic legislative body, and that they will serve their states and our nation with distinction."
He said, "All of the members of this freshman class are accomplished in their own right. But I trust that serving in the United States Senate will be the most rewarding experience of their lives.
"In this chamber, in the 113th Congress, they will face the most significant challenges of their careers. To turn those challenges into triumphs, I urge all Senators – new and experienced – to draw not only on their varied experience at every level of government and public service, but also on each other’s experience – regardless of political party. As Sen. Daniel Webster said, 'We are all agents of the same supreme power, the people.'"
In the House, six out representatives were sworn in on Jan. 3 – Mark Pocan, Jared Polis, David Cicilline, Mark Takano, Sean Patrick Maloney and Kyrsten Sinema – while Barney Frank ended his long career in Congress.
The out representatives, all of them Democrats, serve in the minority party – there are 233 Republicans and 200 Democrats in the House. The freshman class of 84 includes the first Hindu elected to Congress, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and the first openly bisexual member, Sinema.
Baldwin, assigned to committee seats on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; budget; homeland security and aging, serves in the majority party – there are 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two independents in the Senate.
The 12-member freshmen class in the Senate is made up of three Republicans, eight Democrats and one independent.
Baldwin, in addition to being the first openly gay person elected to the Senate, is the first woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin.
The freshman class also includes Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the Senate's first Buddhist, first Asian-American woman and first Japanese-born person.
The Victory Fund planned to hold a celebration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 4.
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