Heard on the Hill

LGBT Staff Association Strives for More Diversity

New president Todd Sloves said the association has taken steps for Republicans to be comfortable

Todd Sloves, the new president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, says his group is hoping to diversify its ranks with more women, people of color and Republicans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Todd Sloves, the new president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, said only in a group like his would adding Republicans be considered part of a diversity effort.

“We are now starting to get into a time when LGBT folks come to work on the Hill — [they] are Republicans, are working for Republicans, and don’t feel like they have to keep that a secret,” said Sloves, 31. “Obviously, it’s a case-by-case basis but I think that’s a sign of the fact that we no longer put out this impression that we are a Democrats-only group.”

Sloves was elected on Feb. 3 and officially became president on Feb. 10. He has worked in New York Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley’s office for four and a half years, the last three as his legislative assistant.

“From my perspective … issues that affect the LGBT community are not a right or left, Republican or Democrat issue. And the more that we can separate that out, the better it is for our community,” he said.

One step the association took at the end of 2014 was to eliminate its policy director position and add to their bylaws that it “exists as a nonpartisan professional organization and shall not make public statements about or take official positions on policy issues except in cases where a policy would have a direct and exclusive impact on the LGBT CSA membership.”

“We’re not here to determine what is and isn’t an acceptable view on health care or education or the economy,” Sloves said. “We’re here to provide a network of both personal and professional support.”

Sloves and his team are working to have more events at private residences, or casual lunches to help out those staffers who he said might “not be comfortable coming to a happy hour on the Hill because they may not be out in their office.”

He first joined the association in 2012 and previously served as the group’s vice president and social events director.

[A Voice for LGBT Staffers]

The House-only association has three pillars of diversity that they are aiming to attract: women, people of color, and Republicans. It had about 75 dues-paying members at the beginning of the 115th Congress.

Their congressional sponsors are the same as they were last Congress: Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“One of the problems that our organization has had for a long time is we have an event, we’re going to end up with — just by nature of D.C. and the gay community and the Hill — a lot of gay, white men showing up to an event,” Sloves said. “That’s sort of how the organization started but it’s not necessarily the future of the organization.”

To that effect, the group is organizing a happy hour for gay people of color during the Presidents Day recess. Aside from happy hours, the association also holds events like speaker series and professional development programs.

When Sloves first got to the Hill, it was a pivotal time in his life. He had been working in former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s district office. Just after the 2010 elections, he was hired as a staff assistant for Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

“When I moved down here in 2010, not only was I unsure of my career prospects, I was unsure of my sexuality. I was not one of those folks who knew from the time when they were a teenager they were gay,” he said.

“It took a couple years for me to really come to terms with it,” he added. “And when I was comfortable with it, [this] was the first organization that I made a point of joining to sort of get a bit more comfortable in my own skin.”

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