Laphonza Butler Will Become the First Black Lesbian to Serve in Congress


Laphonza Butler, president of the political action committee EMILY’s List, will be Congress’s first-ever Black lesbian senator.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped Butler to fill the Senate seat that was left empty after the death of Dianne Feinstein, Politico reported. Her appointment marks a historic first for Congress, with Butler becoming the sole Black woman currently serving and the third-ever Black woman to ever serve in the Senate. She will also be the first openly LGBTQ+ Black woman to work in Congress.

“I’m honored to accept Gov. @GavinNewsom’s nomination to be U.S. Senator for a state I have made my home and honored by his trust in me to serve the people of California and this great nation,” Butler said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “No one will ever measure up to the legacy of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but I will do my best to honor her legacy and leadership by committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California. I am ready to serve.”

Butler has served as president of EMILY’s List, an organization that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women, since 2021.

She previously worked as the director of public policy and campaigns in North America for Airbnb, a strategist and partner at political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, and a senior advisor for Vice President Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign. She also has a long and involved history with the labor movement, having served as the president of home-care workers union SEIU Local 2015 for more than a decade.

raleigh, nc may 17 laphonza butler, president of emilys list, introduces senate candidate cheri beasley during the north carolina democratic partys election night party at the dock at seabord station in raleigh, nc, may 17, 2022 the first black woman to serve as chief justice of the north carolina supreme court, cheri beasley is now vying for another first north carolinas first black senator the associated press called the race for beasley early in the night and she will face off in november against republican nominee ted budd photo by eamon queeney for the washington post via getty images

The Washington Post//Getty Images

Other high-profile California Democrats are currently running for Feinstein’s seat—she was the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history prior to her passing at 90 years old—which will be up for grabs in the 2024 midterms. These include Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee.

CNN reports that Newsom had previously promised to appoint a Black woman if Feinstein, who announced earlier this year that she would not run for reelection, were to resign from her seat earlier than planned. Many had hoped the governor would select Lee, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as Feinstein’s replacement. However, Newsom opted to not choose any of the candidates participating in the 2024 Senate election, so as not to give any particular candidate an advantage over others ahead of time. Though Butler herself may choose to run for office next year, too.

“As we mourn the enormous loss of Sen. Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for—reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence—have never been under greater assault,” Newsom said in a statement on X. “Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people.”

He concluded, “I have no doubt she will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington.”

Headshot of Chelsey Sanchez

Digital Associate Editor

As an associate editor at, Chelsey keeps a finger on the pulse on all things celeb news. She also writes on social movements, connecting with activists leading the fight on workers’ rights, climate justice, and more. Offline, she’s probably spending too much time on TikTok, rewatching Emma (the 2020 version, of course), or buying yet another corset. 

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