There is a draft movement underway in New York City's LGBTQ community.
"LGBTQ in 2021" is a coalition of activists and former elected officials who announced an effort Tuesday to help recruit LGBTQ people to run for office.
"This current crop of council members that we have that are LGBTQ are term-limited, and representation is key," Carmen Neely, president of Harlem Pride, said at a news conference announcing the initiative.
There are only five openly gay elected officials among the 51 members of the City Council, including Speaker Corey Johnson. With all of them facing term limits, they are now putting their political capital behind a group working to help LGBTQ people run for office.
"I stand ready willing and excited to join the effort, rolling up our sleeves, organizing early and making sure that candidates that are running across New York City are seen, are heard, are supported and we get some organizational heft and might behind them," Johnson said.
The effort was inspired by the "21 by 2021" initiative, which launched under former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to help elect 21 women to the council in the next two years.
"In the span of two years, we have fewer LGBT officials in the City Council than we did two years ago," said Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from the Bronx. "We have fewer women in the City Council than we did three decades ago — which reminds us that we cannot take progress for granted."
Despite some progress, there is still a glaring lack of racial and gender diversity among LGBT members of the council. Former State Sen. Tom Duane, the first openly gay man elected to the state Senate, acknowledged the disparity.
"Even campaigning for office makes a huge difference," Duane said. "So just being in the race, it's not always about winning — but that's better — but it's about getting out there, getting the message out there and showing that we are your neighbors, we take our garbage out like you take our garbage out."
The launch of the group could also give Johnson a slight political edge: the speaker is considering a run for mayor in 2021. If elected, he would become the city's first gay mayor.
The coalition will focus on training and recruitment. The "21 by 2021" effort to recruit women has faced some challenges. So far, there are only 12 council members who are women.
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