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Topics In the News
Historic Election Night: What It Means
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/08/12
Last updated on: 11/08/12
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Richard Socarides discusses election results on Current TV.

The 2012 presidential election may be a significant turning point for the equal rights movement. Not only did the country re-elect as President of the United States an outspoken and unapologetic supporter of glbtq rights, including marriage equality, but openly gay and lesbian candidates were elected to Congress and to state legislatures across the country. These successes, coupled with the ratification of marriage equality in four states, may mean that the nation has taken a step toward accepting the proposition that glbtq people deserve equal rights under the law.

The election of President Obama means that there will be no return of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," no intervention by a right-wing Justice Department to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S. Supreme Court, no revocation of executive orders requiring that same-sex partners be allowed hospital visitation rights, no relaxation of the Department of Education's anti-bullying guidelines, no end to the State Department's important support for gay rights abroad, and no retreat from the goal of equal protection.

Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington expanded the number of states that embrace marriage equality. Voters in Minnesota rejected an anti-gay constitutional amendment.

The first openly gay woman was elected to the United States Senate. Two openly gay incumbent Congressmen were re-elected handily. New York and California elected their first openly gay Congressmen. Arizona elected the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Wisconsin not only elected Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, but awarded her vacated seat in the House of Representatives to a gay man.

In addition, hundreds of other openly glbtq candidates were elected to public offices across the country. Seven state legislatures gained their first or only openly gay or lesbian state lawmakers this year, including North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Florida, which went from zero to two gay legislators. In Oregon and Colorado, state legislative election results have positioned two out lawmakers to become House Speakers.

"This wasn't incremental progress. This was a breathtaking leap forward," said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund."

Writing in Out, Richard Socarides describes the November 6 elections as "The Gay-Rights Election."

He points out that "President Obama's support for marriage equality helped him win the election and helped us win the ballot initiatives. During this latest campaign, President Obama's support for gay-rights was never an issue used by Republicans against him. In fact, it worked to his advantage to energize progressives and young people. The Democratic Party needs to finally realize once and for all that being on our side works for them."

He added, "The main problem the Republican Party has right now is that they are out of step with emerging demographic groups, like young people, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians. The fact that the Democrats were willing to take action on our issues helped propel them to reelection. Smart Republicans--and I think they are out there--will realize that they have to come over to our side. They not only have an 'immigration problem' with Hispanics, an 'out of step' problem with young people--they also have a marriage problem with gays and lesbians. I'm hoping this realization brings more and more Republicans to support for basic fairness and marriage equality."

Socarides observes that for as long as he has been in politics, it has been received wisdom that "gay issues are dangerous and only mean trouble for elected officials, even ones who are sympathetic to our cause. It is now a new day--one that has been a long time in coming. Politicians need to recognize that their embrace of us is not only the right thing to do, but leads to success at the ballot box."

Some of our enthusiasm needs to be tempered. The President's victory was the result of a very smart and carefully orchestrated political campaign. We won all three marriage equality questions, but they were in liberal-leaning states in which gay and lesbian couples had already been extended some rights. There remain vast stretches of the country in which gay people can be discriminated against with impunity and in which gay and lesbian couples have no relationship recognition at all.

Still, something significant happened on November 6, 2012. The country does seem on the verge of agreeing that glbtq people should be treated fairly and to be granted equal rights.

As the election results began to be reported Tuesday night and it became apparent that Nate Silver's comforting analysis of polling data was being borne out in the election, I felt a great sense of relief. If the President wins, I thought, at least the amazing progress we have made under his supportive administration will not be summarily reversed.

But as more results poured in and we learned of our successes in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, and then of Tammy Baldwin's historic victory, and the success of other openly gay candidates, the feeling of relief turned into joy and elation.

The election of November 6, 2012 gives us cause for rejoicing.

In the video below, Socarides discusses the results of the election with Eliot Spitzer of Current TV.


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