I glanced at my phone as I left the gym on Sunday night and my heart dropped. Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25) had just announced her resignation.
Hill is one of the good ones. She went into politics for all the right reasons. She seemed to be good at it, too — quickly climbing the ladder of leadership in the House and developing a strong bond with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Who knows — she could have been Speaker herself one day.
So, let’s be clear about what Hill’s vindictive, abusive husband has attempted to steal from her — the would-be Congressional legacy of a 32-year old bisexual woman who was a powerful advocate for social justice, the environment, and clean government. Like too many LGBTQ leaders before her, Hill’s time in office was cut short because her gender and sexual orientation made her a target.
I, for one, refuse to let him succeed and prefer to remember her service to our community instead:
A champion for the LGBTQ community
Katie Hill was California’s first openly LGBTQ congresswoman. She was notably forthcoming and open about her bisexuality in a district where some political consultants would have urged her to hide it.
“Since I pass as heterosexual, I could have just not addressed that in my campaign, and I was advised not to” but “I decided to be open about it. It’s part of who I am,” she said. “It’s important to be a voice for a community that I think is so underrepresented.”
Co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Hill stepped up in a big way for our community to advance the Equality Act by forcefully rebutting absurd claims that transgender women would somehow “take away” athletic scholarships and Olympic medals from cisgender women.
“Are you kidding me?” Hill challenged her Republican colleagues on the House floor. “Through my work on the issue of homelessness, I saw trans women disproportionately affected by discrimination at every stage of their lives…I can tell you that no trans person is trying to game the system to participate in sports. And that is a sad scare tactic that has no place on the floor of the People’s House. … You, my colleagues, are on the wrong side of history. And we will be waiting for you on the other side.”
A champion for those experiencing homelessness
Just prior to being elected, Hill served as Executive Director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), which, during her tenure, grew into California’s largest non-profit provider of permanent housing for thousands of homeless people. In just her first nine months in Congress, she led a bipartisan, bicameral effort aimed at persuading President Trump to drop his Administration’s policies aimed at slashing or eliminating funding altogether for public housing: “Let us be clear: policing and criminalizing your citizens won’t end homelessness. In fact, providing housing-insecure individuals with supportive housing is significantly less expensive than sending them to jail or an emergency room.”
A champion for the environment
Hill, an ardent advocate for cleaner air, water and a non-toxic food supply, defeated Steve Knight, a Republican who earned a three-percent lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard. She campaigned on the transition to 100 percent clean energy and addressing the climate crisis with passion, advocating for the closure of the Aliso Canyon Oil Field and an end to the building of new fossil-fueled power plants. She authored a letter to the president demanding that any renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) include strong, binding climate standards and that the U.S. reenter the Paris Climate Agreement.
She fought for the environment because she was a Millennial who knew that her generation — and the generations that come after her — will have to deal with the consequences of climate change, even if her older colleagues do not.
A champion for women and girls
Hill is a powerful voice for the vital healthcare services provided by Planned Parenthood and other health clinics that serve the most marginalized members of our communities. She fought for women’s health care on military bases, worked to pass stronger equal pay legislation and advocated for comprehensive sexual health education for students.
A champion for healthcare
Hill has long fought to increase Californians’ access to comprehensible affordable, healthcare. Of particular concern to the freshman Congresswoman was Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act — the nondiscrimination clause that addresses health disparities for the LGBTQ community, people of color, those seeking reproductive care and especially transgender patients who might otherwise be unlawfully denied the care they need or forego seeing a doctor entirely for fear of discrimination.
As she promised in her emotional announcement video, Katie will “take up a new fight” against cyber exploitation — or “revenge porn,” as some call it — so that her experience cannot be used “to scare off other young women or girls from running for office.” I have every confidence in her leadership on this issue – cyberbullying of LGBTQ young people in particular is a terrible and growing epidemic that too often leads to devastating consequences.
While her voice and representation in Congress will be missed, and our country will never know what she could have achieved there if given the time, Hill shattered glass ceilings. I have no doubt she will go on to shatter many more – and support more women and LGBTQ folks who seek to shatter their own.
Valerie Ploumpis is National Policy Director for Equality California and Silver State Equality.