6 Reasons Why November 2 Wasn't a Total Gay Political Nightmare
With 11 state marriage amendments passing overwhelmingly, the election of anti-gay crusaders like Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint to the U.S. Senate, and a clear win for a presidential administration that loves to talk about a Federal Marriage Amendment, things might look politically bleak for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. But even in the most monstrous, fag-hating clouds are fabulous silver linings. Here are six good things that -happened for the GLBT community on Election Day:
1. Pro-marriage candidates won. Gay-marriage opponents in Massachusetts made it clear after last years legislative votes that anyone who voted against setting in motion a ban on same-sex unions would be committing political suicide. Turns out they were wrong. An overwhelming number of pro-gay legislators in the Bay State did just fine November 2, while candidates who made marriage their primary issue found themselves making concession speeches. The same was true even in Michigan, where voters, despite approving a marriage ban, elected 24 of the 28 state candidates endorsed by gay advocacy group Michigan Equality which translated into a net pickup of two GLBT-supportive legislators in the Michigan House. Every little bit helps.
2. Texas justice. In Dallas County, Lupe Valdez, an openly lesbian Democrat, beat her Republican opponent to become the countys first female sheriff and the first Democrat to hold the job in nearly three decades. With an endorsement from the Dallas Morning News, Valdez, who campaigned as a reform-minded anti-corruption alternative to the powers that be, won accolades for her experience in the Federal Prison System and U.S. Customs Service. Valdez showed that qualified queer candidates can do just fine, even in Bush Country.
3. Cincinnati fights discrimination. Ohios Hamilton County went Bush and voted for the state amendment that banned gay marriages, but thanks to plenty of hard work and coalition building (including ties with churches), Cincinnati activists turned back the citys infamous Article 12. Added to the city charter in 1993, Article 12 banned the City Council from passing any laws that gave "minority or protected status" to gays and lesbians, making it open season in terms of housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The group Citizens To Restore Fairness spent two years gathering 3,000 volunteers, who campaigned door to door to educate voters. On November 2 the hard work paid off despite being outspent by three to one on the airwaves just weeks before the election, Cincinnati repealed Article 12 by a 10,000-vote margin.
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4. House of Reps. It was a perfect 10 for the openly gay members of the U.S. House Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Massachusetts Barney Frank and Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe coasted to easy re-election victories. All three serve in districts far from the Castro and Chelsea, proving that having the hots for someone of your own sex doesnt impact your ability to bring home the bacon for the straight locals. Together the trio have 48 years experience serving in the House, and have tackled issues like border safety and prescription drugs for seniors. Note to queer political hopefuls: Baldwin, Frank and Kolbe get their jobs done without making sexuality an issue.
5. Slowly but surely. Neither North Carolina nor Idaho come to mind when you think of civil rights breakthroughs, but both red states elected their first openly gay state legislators. In Oregon (which also passed a gay-marriage ban), Rives Kistler was elected to the Supreme Court, the only openly gay person in the country to be elected statewide ever. Out state legislators won re-election in Missouri, North Carolina and Utah yes, Utah. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a queer take on the candidate incubator Emilys List, the number of openly gay elected pols has quadrupled in the past decade from less than 50 to almost 300. Not a huge number in a country with half a million politicians, but its still a start.
6. Not going anywhere. Black Tuesday was also a wake-up call. Just days after the election, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held a conference in St. Louis for hundreds of activists that turned into a huge "get over it"-fest, goading people to organize at the grassroots level and keep up the fight. And the queer kids are as angry as ever. Meagan Moering, a Montana student, said it best in a post-election interview with The Advocate: "Being an out lesbian in the Northwest is difficult enough as is; having these laws against us makes it even more discouraging." But Moering isnt backing down anytime soon. "Regardless of any president or amendment," she said, "the GLBT community is not going away, and Im sure not going to let this scare me back into the closet."
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