November 6th 2012 was a great day for LGBT political progress to equality, at all levels of American government.
Voters had never before approved marriage equality in a direct ballot, but this week they did so in four states simultaneously. In Maine, they reversed a ballot decision from 2009, re-instating the law passed earlier that year. In Maryland and Maine, they approved the legislation that had been passed earlier by the state legislatures, and that had been stalled by opponents belief that voters would overturn it. In Minnesota, voters resisted attempts to entrench marriage discrimination in the state constitution.
This will embolden new marriage initiatives from state legislatures and citizens’ ballot propositions, to upgrade civil unions to full marriage, to introduce civil unions where they are not yet available, or to overturn existing constitutional bans. Keep an eye on Rhode Island, Illinois, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, and Colorado.
The resounding voter support will also send a strong message to the justices of the Supreme Court, as they decide on how to respond to the assorted appeals – on Proposition 8 in California, and challenges to DOMA. If they decide not to consider the appeal on the Proposition 8 ruling, it will stand. Proposition H8 will have been overturned, and marriage equality will return to the state. If they do take up the issue, they may well agree with the lower court, that Proposition 8 was invalid – but if not, voters will surely take up the issue, as they did in Maine – and will win. Either way, marriage equality will return, and within the next year or two. We just cannot say how, or when.
Washington will have its largest queer delegation yet. Tammy Baldwin is the first LGBT person elected to the Senate, and three gay men joined two incumbents as congressmen: Mark Takano in California 41, Sean Patrick Maloney in New York, and Mark Pocan in Wisconsin 02. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona 09 became the first openly bisexual Representative elected. Together with the existing Reps Jared Polis (Colorado) and David Cicilline (Rhode Island), that’s a total delegation of seven, spanning the East Coast, Midwest, Southwest and West Coast.
The big news and headlines have concentrated on the national results, but it is at state and local levels that many of the decisions are made that affect our lives most directly – and there are some really interesting stories lower down the ballot.
- In Minnesota, where Republicans in the state legislature, with Catholic bishops as cheerleaders, initiated the proposed constitutional ban, the GOP lost both houses of the state legislature.
- In New York, where the NOM and the rest of the religious right went after four GOP state senators who supported gay marriage last year, the Republicans appear to have lost the state senate, which they have held for years. (One key race has not yet been settled, but the Democrat holds a still lead).
- In Iowa, where the Democrats control the state senate and have resisted attempts to initiate a repeal of gay marriage, the Republicans failed in a determined attempt to take control. Also in Iowa, where two years ago voters unseated three of the judges who had ruled in favour of gay marriage, this year a similar conservative assault on a fourth judge failed. Same – sex marriage in Iowa is here to stay.
- In Colorado, where the GOP Speaker of the state House blocked a bill for civil unions that would have passed simply by refusing to allow a vote, the Democrats have regained control. Speaker McNulty will soon be ex-Speaker, and is likely to be replaced by – an openly gay man. Expect civil unions, or even full marriage equality, to feature high on his to-do list for 2013.
This will send a strong message to the opponents of equality in other state legislatures. The National Organisation for Marriage and their allies had promised to demonstrate that Republican support for equality would damage their careers. The reverse is true – it’s discrimination, not support for LGBT equality, that is now an electoral liability.
As recently as 2004 the Republican strategist Karl Rove prompted Republicans in key states to put up gay marriage bans in the federal election. The object was to anger the base and draw Christian conservatives and religious black voters out to the polls, and in so doing bolster the vote for George Bush jnr. It worked, and for a time some Republicans believed they could use fear of gay marriage to maintain a permanent majority.
The results across America on Tuesday night appear to put the notion to rest
– Sydney Morning Herald
State House election gains:
The electoral gains at congressional level were repeated right down the ballot. Gay Politics reports that
Seven state legislatures gained their first or only openly LGBT state lawmakers this year, including North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida, which went from zero to two gay legislators. And in Oregon and Colorado, state legislative election results have positioned two out lawmakers to become House Speakers.
Those supported by the Victory Fund and elected included:
California – Senate
California – State Assembly
- Tom Ammiano
- Toni Atkins
- Susan Eggman
- Richard Gordon
- John Perez
Colorado – Senate
- Jessie Ulibarri
- Patrick Steadman
Colorado – State House of Representatives
- Dominick Moreno
- Paul Rosenthal
- Mark Ferrandino
- Joann Ginal
- Sue Schafer
Florida – State House of Representatives
- Joe Saunders
- Dave Richardson-State House of Representatives
Georgia – State House of Representatives
- Simone Bell
- Karla Drenner
- Keisha Sean Waites
Illinois – State House of Representatives
- Deb Mell
- Sam Yingling
- Kelly Cassidy
Massachusetts – State House of Representatives
- Denise Andrews
- Carl Sciortino
- Sarah Peake
Maine – State House of Representatives
- Justin Chenette
- Andrew McLean
- Matt Moonen
- Terry Morrison
Minnesota – State House of Representatives
Minnesota – State House of Representatives
Missouri – State House of Representatives
Montana -State Senate
Montana-State House of Representatives
North Carolina -State House of Representatives
North Dakota – State House of Representatives
New Hampshire -State Senate
New Hampshire -Executive Council
New Mexico – State Senate
Nevada – State Senate
Nevada – State Assembly
- James Healey
- Andrew Martin
New York– State Senate
New York – State Assembly
- Harry Bronson
- Matthew Titone
- Danny O’Donnell
Ohio – State House of Representatives
Oklahoma – State Senate
Oklahoma – State House of Representatives
Oregon – Secretary of State
Oregon – State Supreme Court
Oregon – State House of Representatives
Pennsylvania – State House of Representatives
Rhode Island-State Senate
Rhode Island-State House of Representatives
- Gordon Fox
- Deb Ruggiero
- Frank Ferri
South Dakota -State Senate
Texas – State House of Representatives
Vermont -State House of Representatives
- Herb Russell
- Matt Trieber
- Suzi Wizowaty
Washington -State House of Representatives
- Jamie Pederson
- Marko Liias
- Jim Moeller
WI – State Assembly
West Virginia -State House of Delegates
Wyoming -State House of Representatives
That’s a long list, but it’s incomplete. There will be more who should be added: there are others who did not seek or accept help from the Victory Fund, some races are still not yet decided (pending absentee or provisional vote counting, and recounts), and others may have been omitted in simple error.