(Photo Credits: Screengrab from Jessica Benham’s Instagram Account)

Jessica Benham made history in Pennsylvania for becoming the first out bisexual autistic woman to ever be elected to the state legislature. She defeated Republican A.J. Doyle and secured a seat for State House District 36, joining the few out autistic legislators who served as a state lawmaker nationwide.

Benham took to Twitter to thank her supporters, volunteers, and staff for their “overwhelming support” and to say that, “It will be my absolute honor to represent you in Harrisburg.” She added, “I’m ready to get to work!” 

Meanwhile, her opponent, A.J. Doyle, took to Facebook to graciously accept his defeat and to congratulate Benham:

Benham, who has three degrees under her belt, is the co-founder and Director of Development for the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA). PCAA is a “grassroots self-advocacy project run by Autistic people for Autistic people.” 

Benham is also an active community volunteer who “advocated strongly” for Paul’s Law—a bill signed into law in Pennsylvania in 2018 prohibiting discrimination against disabled people In need of organ transplants.

When asked by Pittsburgh Current about “What’s at Stake” in this election, Benham wrote an essay for them way back in October titled: People With Disabilities Deserve A Leader Who Actually Cares Whether They Live Or Die. She said:

I have a pre-existing condition. I’m a disabled, bisexual woman. In many ways, my life is on the ballot this fall. Following the lead of President Trump, many Republicans in the Pennsylvania State House have refused to wear masks and blame pre-existing conditions, rather than COVID, for the deaths of people like me. I’m sorry, if I get hit and killed by a bus, it wasn’t the pre-existing condition that killed me, it was the bus. People like me are dying, and many people, including our president and many of my potential future colleagues in the PA house, don’t seem to care. And let’s not forget: Black and brown people with disabilities are dying at even higher rates than white disabled people like me. Do you care?

Benham will focus her work on affordable and dignified healthcare for all, COVID-19 response, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, disability rights, climate change and clean environment, education, to name a few. Check here for the complete list.

Jessica Benham is only the third openly autistic lawmaker to ever serve in a state’s legislature in US history. The two others are Yuh-Line Niou, a member of the New York State Assembly; and Briscoe Cain, a member of the Texas House of Representatives.

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