Heard on the Hill

LGBT Staff Association Has Republican on Board for First Time in Decade

Professional development director is Jayson Schimmenti from Rep. Tom MacArthur’s office

The LGBT Congressional Staff Association got a little more diverse after a Republican legislative assistant was elected to its board. (Group photo taken in Oct. 2017 for National Coming Out Day, courtesy of the association)

It’s been at least a decade since a Republican served on the board of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, but this year Jayson Schimmenti, legislative assistant to New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, stepped up.

Schimmenti, 28, was elected professional development director last week. In that role, he hopes “to help LGBTQ Republicans tap into the professional development resources of our organization here on the Hill.”

Bringing more Republicans into the association continues to be a priority. When outgoing president Todd Sloves took office a year ago, he said recruiting Republicans would be a part of the organization’s diversity efforts.

More and more of the LGBT folks coming to work on the hill “are Republicans, working for Republicans, and don’t feel like they have to keep that a secret,” Sloves said in 2017.

At the time, the association tried to make it easier for Republicans to join. It edited its bylaws to make it clear that it was nonpartisan and held events at private residences to help staffers whose orientation wasn’t known to their work colleagues.

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The association’s new president, Robert Edmonson, chief of staff in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s personal office, said he thinks Schimmenti’s spot on the board shows the group’s dedication to inclusiveness.

“The LGBT Congressional Staff Association’s newly elected board of directors, with its strong diversity adding more bipartisanship and more people of color, reflects our commitment to ensuring all members of the LGBT community have a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive Hill family,” Edmonson said in a statement.

Schimmenti, a New Jersey native, started his political career as a legislative aide in the New Jersey General Assembly. He later worked as a regional field director when MacArthur first ran for Congress in 2014.

He became one of the first staffers in MacArthur’s Capitol Hill office in January 2015, where he worked as a legislative correspondent. He was promoted to legislative assistant in December 2016.

MacArthur’s campaign website states that he believes marriage “is between one man and one woman.” But in 2017 he also played a leading role in a bipartisan letter that urged the the Census Bureau to include sexual orientation and gender identity as subjects in the 2020 Census and pushed back on President Donald Trump’s announcement that transgender people should no longer be allowed to serve in the military, suggesting the policy had gone too far but ultimately was Defense Secretary James Mattis’ decision.

The rest of the association’s board includes Chris Cunningham, vice president, who is a legislative assistant and correspondent for Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, and Pablo A. Sierra-Carmona, communications director, who is a press assistant for Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California.

Additionally, Hector Colón, social events director, is legislative correspondent for Rep. Joseph Crowley, and Sarah Jackson, membership director, is legislative assistant in Pelosi’s personal office.

The at-large directors are Matthew Ramirez, legislative correspondent in Pelosi’s personal office, and Chris Horta, staff assistant for the House Democratic Caucus.

The association first started in the late 1980s and was seen as a support group where gay staffers could come together because they didn’t feel comfortable in the workplace. There is a counterpart in the Senate, the Senate GLASS Caucus, and in the Library of Congress, LC GLOBE.

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