Gay-rights advocates welcome election results this time

 

USA

On Tuesday, American politics became much more gay-friendly. 

Wisconsin voters elected a lesbian senator. Three gay men, and potentially one bisexual woman, will join the House of Representatives. And the approval of ballot initiatives means homosexuals can marry in three more states.

The gay rights movement had come to dread election days, when voters often reversed measures that legislatures and governors had backed. And opponents of same-sex marriage consistently won decisive statewide votes with far less money and manpower than its advocates.

As recently as May, North Carolina voters delivered another drubbing in a string of 30-plus statewide losses for gay-marriage activists, adding the state's ban on same-sex marriage to its constitution. In Tuesday's vote, those advocates welcomed a different result. "Winning for the first time at the ballot box in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington is truly historic," said Chad Griffin, who recently took over the Human Rights Campaign (HCR), the nation's largest gay rights organization. "You're seeing how fair-minded Americans are, coming down on the side of full equality and inclusion in this country."

Griffin attributed the win to new gay-straight alliances — outreach efforts with church leaders, African American activists, corporations and business leaders. Many prominent executives took the risk of alienating their customer base and ponied up chunks of their own fortunes, including the founders of Amazon and Microsoft in Washington state. The chief executive of General Mills, Ken Powell, spoke for his company against a same-sex marriage ban in the conglomerate's home state of Minnesota.

A leading opponent to same-sex marriage discounted the victories as waged on uneven terrain. Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington are "four deep-blue states," where Democratic voters are more likely to back gay causes, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

Only four years ago, opponents of gay marriage triumphed in California's Proposition 8 vote, which stopped a same-sex marriage law in that blue state. Brown noted that NOM achieved a decisive win there despite many newspaper editorials in favor of same-sex marriage, plus corporate behemoths such as Google and Levi's lining up with gay rights organizations. "That's not new" to face off against such players, Brown said. "What's new this year is just the level of money."

Griffin cited the $2.5 million check that Jeff Bezos, Amazon's billionaire founder, wrote in support of Washington's gay-marriage effort — funds that mingled with $600,000 each from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer. By Brown's estimation, Bezos' act of largess was a historic feat: "As far as I know, that's the largest single donation" in the dozens of gay-marriage ballot initiatives to date.

The money spent this year was the most lopsided in favor of advocates of same-sex marriage thus far. By HRC's tally of the Washington state race, gay rights organizations poured in nearly $12 million, while advocates of traditional marriage spent $3 million. Nationwide, HRC and NOM spent the most money, and the Catholic Church contributed large sums in its effort to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

Earlier in the year in Maryland and Washington, legislatures passed bills to allow same-sex marriage, with the blessings, respectively, of Govs. Martin O'Malley and Chris Gregoire, both Catholic Democrats. Then traditional-marriage petitioners pushed for ballot initiatives. Maine's vote arose after gay-marriage activists gathered enough signatures to send the same-sex marriage question directly to the voters, three years after a similar measure failed. In Minnesota, voters were asked a different question: Should the state's existing ban on gay marriage become an amendment to the state's constitution?

The decisive wins for same-sex marriage come shortly before what is expected to be a momentous week in the Supreme Court. Griffin said the justices could decide to hear challenges to California's Proposition 8 and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. "We have never seen in the history of the Supreme Court, where so many gay-equality cases are pending before the justices," he said.

Many gay rights activists were optimistic that Tuesday's sweep would inform the proceedings. "There's no question that these votes affect the court," said Brian Ellner, a prominent advocate for gay equality issues. "These victories make clear what the polling is already demonstrating."

Across the street from the court, the Capitol will soon be the site of the swearing in of six openly gay lawmakers, all Democrats. Returning to the House are Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado and David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island. They will be joined by Representatives-elect Mark Takano of California, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who won the seat now held by lesbian Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin. In a new House district in Arizona, an openly bisexual former state lawmaker, Kyrsten Sinema, is in a race that was too close to call.

Although gay-marriage advocates poured nearly $33 million into the four state contests (and were answered with $11.3 million on the other side), the activists also supported lawmakers who had publicly called for legalizing gay marriage. With some help from gay donors, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, endured a difficult contest, made more complicated by the need to win over Catholic and black voters to retain his seat, when organizations in both communities had been vocal against the cause.

Gay donors turned out as well for the biggest voice of all in their cause, President Barack Obama, who endorsed same-sex marriage in May. The president can count many HRC members among the most active fundraisers in his reelection effort. "He was there for us," Griffin said, "and we were there for him."

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki noted the many campaign events when Obama reminded voters of his support for gay causes. "You have a sitting president out there talking with great pride that he repealed 'don't ask, don't tell' and supports how all couples should be together," Psaki said. "It shows the tremendous amount of progress we made, and it shows the direction the country's moving in."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee