The Vote Is In: The 11 Most Gay-Friendly Senators In Congress

After tallying the most pro- and anti-LGBT congresspeople in the U.S. House of Representatives, political site Think Progress turned its gaze to the Senate, a somewhat more friendly environment. Sixteen pro-LGBT bills have been introduced in the Senate since the beginning of 2011.

The most pro-LGBT senator was a three-way tie between Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), and Patty Murray (D-WA), each of whom authored or helped sponsor 13 of those 16 bills.

Akaka and Murray are fourth-term senators (Akaka is retiring at the end of the year), while Kerry is in his fifth term. The former Democratic presidential nominee is the chief sponsor of both the HOME Act, which prevents housing discrimination against LGBT people, and the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act, which aids at-risk queer youth.

The remainder of the honorees, seven Democrats and one independent, are:

* Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a first-term Senator who highlights his commitment “to combating discrimination against Americans based on their sexual orientation or gender identification” on the Civil Rights page of his official website.

* Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), a third-term Senator and the Senate Majority Whip. Durbin is the lead sponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, a proposal to provide same-sex couples with equal access to unpaid leave, and made a video for the “It Gets Better” project.

* Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a first-term Senator who is chief sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a proposal to ban discrimination against LGBT families in adoption and foster parenting. She was a leading force behind the 2010 Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal and in the Marriage Equality page on her campaign website notes that “Kirsten believes everyone should be able to marry the person they love and that being part of a family is a basic right.”

* Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), a ninth-term Senator and the Senate President Pro Tempore. Inouye has represented Hawaii in Congress since it achieved statehood in 1959 and during the 2010 Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate noted “I fought alongside gay men during World War II and many of them were killed in combat. Those men were heroes. And once again, heroes will be allowed to defend their country, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

* Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a second-term Senator and lead sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 (which includes immigration rights for same-sex couples). The Civil Rights page of his official website highlights his support for legislation that would end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

* Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a first-term Senator and lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 (which bans employment discrimination against LGBT workers). On the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties page of his official website, he highlights his work against employment discrimination and notes that “it remains legal in 29 states to fire someone based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.”

* Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a fifth-term Senator and lead sponsor of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act of 2011 (an LGBT-inclusive sex education proposal) and the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2011 (which would combat anti-LGBT bullying in colleges and universities).

* Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), a first-term Senator and an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. When President Obama announced his support for marriage equality in May, Sanders hailed it as a “major milestone.”

Major LGBT-inclusive legislation put forward in 2011 includes the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 (which addressed bullying), the Respect for Marriage Act (an attempt to override DOMA), the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act (helping bi-national same-sex couples) and the Violence Against Women Re-Authorization Act (which would have added provisions for LGBT victims of partner abuse).