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Diversity & Representation in the 113th Congress

It is a given in the modern era that a nation's legislature should not only represent it's people, legislatively and idealogically, but it should resemble their communities' identities.

Never has that been truer than last Thursday, Jan. 3, when the freshman class of the 113th Congress filled into the rotunda of the Capitol Building to receive the oath of office from the Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

It is by any measure—race, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation—the most diverse incoming congressional class in the history of the United States.

There are four new African-American representatives, and a newly minted African-American Senator. Five new Asian American representatives. And a record number of both Latinos and women.

America now has it’s first Buddhist Senator, its first practicing Hindu to ever serve in either house, and the first congressperson to openly acknowledge their atheism before being elected.

And there are now four representatives born in the 1980s, making this the “youngest” Congress ever.

And perhaps most excitingly to the readers of this site (and certainly for me) this Congress boasts four new members from the LGBT community, including its first openly homosexual person of color, Mark Takano of California, its first bisexual congressperson, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, America’s first openly lesbian Senator. Which brings the total number of lesbian, gay and bisexual congresspeople to seven.

Though it is still considerably whiter and older than the nation as a whole, never before has a congress been more reflective of the America it represents. But as diverse as this Congress might be, it has one glaring lack; there are no openly HIV-positive individuals serving in either house. And there never have been.

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