History made as Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres sworn in as first gay Black and Afro-Latino congressmen

Patrick Kelleher
·3-min read

Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres have been sworn in as the first openly gay Black and Afro-Latino congressmen in a history-making moment.

The two New York Democrats, who were elected to Congress in the November election, were sworn in on Sunday (3 January) in a groundbreaking moment for LGBT+ visibility.

Jones, who previously worked in the US Department of Justice during Barack Obama’s time in the White House, said his heart was “full of gratitude” after being sworn in.

“Today, with my sister by my side, I was sworn in to represent the community that raised me from Section 8 housing all the way to the halls of Congress,” Jones wrote on social media.

“My heart is full of gratitude for the great people of Westchester and Rockland Counties, and I’m humbled that they have placed their trust in me. I can’t wait to get to work fighting for you and keeping your secret trust.”

Jones has already been appointed freshman representative to leadership, and he will also serve as deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres to bring ‘unique perspective’.

Meanwhile, Torres reflected on the significance of the moment in a video shared on Facebook and recorded in his new office shortly before he was officially sworn in.

“It’s an exciting moment for me, and it’s an honour to be a member of the world’s greatest legislature,” Torres said.

“I’m always going to remember the most important lesson that my mother taught me, is that never forget where you come from, never forget the people that voted you into office. And so even when I leave the Bronx, the Bronx will not leave me when I’m in Washington DC.”

In a 2 January tweet, Torres thanked the outgoing Bronx congressman José E Serrano, whose retirement paved the way for the young politician to win a seat.

“You have – without fail – set the gold standard of decency and integrity in elected office. From the Bronx River to Puerto Rico, the impact of your service will be forever felt,” Torres wrote.

Speaking in November when Jones and Torres were elected, Annise Parker of the LGBTQ Victory Fund said the pair had “shattered a rainbow ceiling” and said they would bring a “unique perspective” to Congress.

“As our nation grapples with racism, police brutality and a pandemic that disproportionally affects people of color and LGBTQ people, these are the voices that can pull us from the brink and toward a more united and fair society,” Parker said at the time.

Torres did not have an easy path to Congress, facing down an anti-LGBT+ preacher earlier this year in the Democratic primary for the seat. He also faced homophobic attacks from a police union official who referred to him as a “first class w***e.”

At the time, the candidate responded: “My message to the homophobes of SBA NYPD: I’m here. I’m queer. I’m not going anywhere. And whether you like it or not, I’m heading to the United States Congress.”