08 November 2012

The U.S. Congress is now a little more diverse

Tuesday's elections brought two historic firsts for religion in American politics: A Buddhist senator and a Hindu representative -- both from Hawaii -- will join Congress.

Democrat Mazie Hirono beat former Gov. Linda Lingle (R), making Hirono the first Buddhist in the Senate. In Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Tulsi Gabbard defeated Republican opponent Kawika Crowley, making Gabbard the first Hindu in Congress...

Hirono, who was born in Japan, practices the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism... She is also the first Asian-American woman senator and the first senator born in Japan...

Gabbard, 31, was born in American Samoa, and raised by a Catholic father and a Hindu mother. Unlike most Hindus, Gabbard is not of Indian heritage. Her father is Samoan and her mother is a convert to Hinduism...

Hirono and Gabbard will join an increasingly diverse Congress. The first Muslim to join the House or Senate, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), was first elected in 2006 and reelected for a fourth term on Tuesday. In 2008, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) was the second Muslim elected to Congress. In 2008, Rep. Hark Johnson (D-Ga.), another Buddhist, also joined Congress, making history with him and Hirono the first Buddhists to be elected to Congress.

More than a century prior, smaller religious groups also made headway into congressional seats for the first time. Lewis Charles Levin of the American Party was the first Jew elected to Congress in 1845, and represented Pennsylvania in the House. The first Mormon was John Milton Bernhisel, who joined Congress in 1851 to represent Utah. The only Sikh congressman, California Democrat Dalip Singh Saund, was elected for three terms beginning in 1957.


  1. And the first openly lesbian senator!

  2. The Democratic House delegation is the first delegation where white men are not the majority of party representatives. Also, 20% of the Senate are women for the first time!


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