Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres Become the First Openly Gay Black Members of Congress

“The progressive movement and progressive candidates, and soon-to-be-members of Congress like myself, are ascendant.”

Mondaire Jones

Bebeto Matthews/AP

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Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres made history Tuesday night as the first two openly gay Black members of Congress. Jones, 33, was elected as the representative to New York’s 17th congressional district, including areas of Rockland and Westchester Counties. Torres, 32, was elected to represent New York’s 15th District, which covers portions of the West and South Bronx. Torres identifies as Afro-Latino.

Both candidates’ historic wins have been anticipated since they won their Democratic primary races last June, riding an insurgent wave of Progressive Democratic candidates. In a conversation with Jamilah King on the Mother Jones Podcast in early September, Mondaire Jones explained that he’s already on group texts with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

“There’s never been an openly gay Black member of Congress in the 244 year history of the United States, and it was only in the past few years that I began to think that it was possible,” Jones said on the podcast, acknowledging the barriers that his campaign was on the brink of breaking. Jones also addressed the homophobia he experienced as a candidate and talked about the pieces of his personal story that kept him going: “For me, policy is personal. I grew up in section eight housing and on food stamps. It’s not academic for me.”

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