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Election 2012 was a watershed moment for LGBT equality in America

November 7, 2012

Election 2012 saw stunning results for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, from the passage of the first-ever marriage equality measures by popular vote, to the election of the first openly lesbian candidate to the U.S. Senate, to the re-election of the most pro-LGBT president in American history and the first sitting president to come out in support of the freedom to marry.

This is a watershed moment for LGBT equality in America,” says National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey. “We’ve turned a corner and we’re not going back.”

Presidential race

President Obama, America’s most pro-LGBT equality president in history and the first sitting president to come out in support of marriage equality, was re-elected last night over staunchly anti-LGBT rights opponent Gov. Mitt Romney.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

What we want is a president who recognizes our lives and families and will fight for us. President Obama has repeatedly shown that he is willing to do so, and we now have another four years to keep up the momentum.

Read the full statement here.

Download: ‘Movement Analysis: The Impact of the 2012 Presidential Election on the LGBT Policy Agenda.’

Federal landscape

LGBT rights advocates will continue to work in a similar federal landscape come the next Congress after Republicans maintained control of the U.S. House, and Democrats retained a majority in the Senate. Democrats still do not hold a filibuster-proof majority (60 seats) but notably the party did gain at least two additional Senate seats. This division will likely mean continuing gridlock and tougher challenges advancing legislation.

The good news: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has made history by becoming the first out lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate, and she is Wisconsin’s first female senator. She defeated Republican opponent former Gov. Tommy Thompson and her seat will be held by newly elected and also openly gay U.S. Rep-elect Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) won re-election against GOP challenger Kevin Lundberg. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) also held his seat against challenge from Republican candidate Brendan Doherty.

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus will also be expanded with the addition of three new members: Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is poised to become the first openly bisexual member of Congress; Mark Takano (D-Calif.), first Asian-American openly gay member of Congress; and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who beat Republican opponent Nan Hayworth. Both chambers will also include several re-elected and newly elected LGBT equality supporters.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

People want honest and effective government. Being an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender candidate — or a candidate who supports LGBT equality — is simply a non-issue for many voters, as this election makes crystal clear. No matter what the political breakdown is in Washington, we will continue to identify and work with fair-minded members of Congress who are willing to support and defend equality for LGBT people.

Marriage equality

Maine celebrates marriage equality victory!

One of the biggest stories of this election was the historic marriage wins in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota. Maine passed Question 1, the first-ever proactive marriage equality ballot measure, with voters approving it 53 percent to 47 percent. In Maryland, voters passed Question 6, which affirmed a marriage equality law passed earlier this year in the Free State. The vote was 52 percent to 48 percent. In Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment that sought to block same-sex couples from marrying. In Washington state, elections officials are still tallying the mail-in ballots for Referendum 74, which would affirm the marriage equality law in that state. Proponents are cautiously optimistic of its passage, which will make for an unprecedented clean sweep for marriage equality measures this election. [UPDATE: Washington voters have approved  Referendum 74, making a four-state sweep for marriage equality!]

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

This is the dawn of a new day for marriage equality in America. We still have a ways to go before all families can share in the celebration and responsibilities of marriage, but today we woke up much farther down that road than we were the day before. These wins at the ballot box are breathtaking, history-making milestones for our country.

Read our full statements on Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.

Social justice issues score wins and losses

Immigration rights: Maryland voters passed Question 4 affirming the Maryland DREAM Act, a law passed last year that provides undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition at public universities and colleges. The Task Force, a longtime advocate for fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform, is proud to have worked with local groups to make the Dream ACT a reality. It was the first such measure to pass by popular vote.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

Maryland is building brighter and more secure futures for our young people, including countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Having access to education is key to this dream. Education unlocks ideas, unleashes creativity, and grows our skills and talents. This not only benefits individual students, it makes our local communities, our states and our country stronger and more competitive.

Read the full statement here.

Gains for women: Voters are sending a record high number of women to serve in the U.S. Senate — at least 19, including the historic first openly lesbian senator, Tammy Baldwin. This is a welcome development given how many direct attacks on women we’ve witnessed during the campaign season such as the two candidates who directly attacked abortion rights. In the Missouri Senate race, Republican challenger Rep. Todd Akin distorted the laws of science by suggesting that rape victims bodies are designed to shut down a pregnancy thereby circumventing the need for abortion in case of rape. He lost. Similarly, Richard Mourdock made the outrageous claim that women who are raped and become pregnant are fulfilling God’s will. He also lost his bid for the Indiana Senate seat. The war on women is clearly losing.

Reproductive rights: Florida voters rejected Amendment 6, which would have curtailed abortion rights, by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent. Voters in Montana, however, approved Referendum 120, mandating a doctor to notify a parent or legal guardian at least 48 hours prior to performing an abortion on a woman under 16.

Voter rights: Minnesota voters defeated a constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot.

Death penalty: California voters rejected Prop. 34, which sought to repeal the state’s death penalty. The Task Force, which has officially opposed the death penalty since 1999, contributed resources to the “Yes on 34″ campaign.

The Task Force’s Rea Carey says:

California’s vote against ending the death penalty is greatly disappointing and a strike against our common humanity. We have long known that innocent people die under the death penalty, that it does not deter crime, and that it is disproportionately applied to people of color and poor people. These are among the many reasons to oppose the death penalty, which is also considered a fundamental human rights violation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Read the full statement here.

Nondiscrimination ordinances lose in two Kansas cities

In Salina, voters repealed a five-month-old ordinance that protected members of the LGBT community from discrimination with approximately 54 percent voting to repeal. Voters in Hutchinson, meanwhile, rejected an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, housing and public places. The proposal lost with approximately 58 percent voting no.

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