COVID-19 shows LGBTQ women make excellent leaders

Lisa Turner | Jun 16, 2020

It’s a common observation that the nations with the most effective coronavirus response are all led by women. In comparison, pandemic management in the US has been delegated predominantly to the state and local levels, where the most effective leaders have followed the global trend — they’re women. And in many cases, they’re LGBTQ women. Now, as we celebrate Pride Month, it’s time these stellar leaders are recognized for what they have already accomplished — and for all the potential the LGBTQ women’s community has to step up and lead the nation forward.

Two years ago, a historic number of LGBTQ women candidates ran for office — and won. And ever since, that cohort, and the pioneers they joined, have shown a leadership that sets them apart. Officials like Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle, and newer officeholders like Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, underscore the outsized impact this small minority has in managing the current crisis.

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown had to deal with the nation’s earliest coronavirus flare-up. Her swift action turned an early hotspot into an example for the rest of the nation to follow, with record-low death rates. Brown, the first openly LGBTQ person ever elected governor, has even been able to send excess ventilators to New York, an act of generosity later mirrored by California and Washington state.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, acted decisively as Seattle, too, became an early COVID-19 hotspot. By early March, she halted residential and small-business evictions, announced deferred utility payments and made Seattle the first city in the U.S. to open a dedicated first-responder virus testing site. She was also an early adopter of closing streets to cars to give people more walking space, and her administration has distributed tens of thousands of masks and run a childcare program for essential workers.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s public “stay home” campaign has been so effective that it’s launched entire social media accounts devoted to it. Lightfoot, the first LGBTQ person and the first Black woman elected to lead America’s third-largest city, has said that her status as a marginalized minority helped her enter the pandemic prepared.


Nearby in Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel has cracked down on COVID-related price gouging and scam attempts. She has also been a loud, passionate advocate for the health of Michigan residents, squaring off against the President for his refusal to wear a mask when he toured a Ford plant in the state last month.


There are far more examples of this beyond Lightfoot, Durkan, Nessel and Brown, including Mayors Jane Castor of Tampa and Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison, and federal leaders like Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Reps. Angie Craig and Sharice Davids. LGBTQ women have shown that it’s possible to put rank-and-file welfare front and center and still emerge ahead, which is exactly the sort of leadership that will save lives and livelihoods in a post-COVID-19 era.

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