As the sun rises over the United States this morning, many gay and lesbian Americans awake with renewed hope for respect, inclusive leadership and equality in their nation.
Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States and the 44th President was re-elected yesterday to a second term. Obama follows the footsteps of fellow Democrat Bill Clinton, who was elected to his second term as President in 1997. He is also the first sitting President to acknowledge, defend and recognise the rights of America’s LGBT population, by supporting marriage equality.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try,” he said as he closed his acceptance speech yesterday.
Watch the historic speech here
Obama’s win was fairly definite and not as close as many pundits would have thought. The counting in Florida is all but over and it looks highly probable that Obama will end with 332 Electoral College votes. He only needed 270 to be re elected. The key swing states of Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and Florida were important to his win (although, at the time of writing, Florida has still not been called).
But there were other issues in yesterday’s election that are important for the 3.4% of the United States population that identify as LGBT. In some rough mathematics, the population of the US is about 311 million people. In some simple math, that makes about 10.5 million Americans openly gay or lesbian.
They would be very happy with some state-based questions that were put as part of this 2012 election.
In Maine, in the very north east of the country, the question was put on the ballot “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”
It is pleasing to see that the good people of Maine voted in favour of this 53%-47%. This will overturn a 2009 measure that banned equal marriage in that state.
In Minnesota, located in the mid-west on the Great Lakes, the people had their question put differently. They were asked to approve or deny “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.” At the time of writing, the no vote is similar to Maine, with about 6% difference over the yes vote. Minnesota legislators will probably move during this term to allow legal marriage between same sex attracted couples. Good on you Minnesota.
In the Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland, question 6 on the ballot asked the population who voted to agree or disagree with the statement: “you would approve a law that allows same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license.” With 99% of the vote counted, the ‘yes’ vote has been successful with about a 4% margin. Maryland, you rock.
Across the other side of the country, in the state of Washington, which sits in the Pacific North West, the ballot asked voters if same-sex marriage should be legalised in the state of Washington. The answer was also a resounding yes with another margin of about 4%. This follows the success of a bill in the Washington State Senate in February 2012. It’s a terrific result and although the votes have not all been tallied, it is most likely that there will be no move now to challenge that February result.
There were other moves foot during the election campaign that we did not really hear about.
Back to the mid-west and to Iowa. Known as the American Heartland, there was a move by the Republicans to take the State Senate and introduce a bill to ban equal marriage in that state. Imagine their shock when the Democrats held the state senate and Justice David Wiggins, who affirms equal marriage, was retained. This is great news for LGBT Iowans. Although that state did not ratify any sort of vote in favour of equal marriage, the GOP will not have the numbers to move anything against it.
In New York State, the Democrats took the State Senate, a surprise to many. The National Organisation for Marriage (N.O.M.), which is a bit of a Republican sponsored organisation that doesn’t very much like marriage equality, has already outlined and published a three part plan to repeal the ‘Marriage Equality Act’ that was passed there in July 2011. Clearly now that won’t be going anywhere. Senator Mark Grissanti, one of the few Republicans who supported Marriage Equality in New York State, was returned in yesterday’s election.
One of the most pleasing results, however, was the election of Tammy Baldwin to the Federal Senate. The seven-term congresswoman from Wisconsin is the first openly gay person elected to the United States Senate. In other news from Wisconsin, the man that was elected to her congress seat, Mark Pocan, is also gay.
Watch Tammy Baldwin’s victory speech here:
Baldwin was one of four openly gay House members of the 112 U.S. Congress, along with fellow DemocratsBarney Frank of Massachusetts, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jared Polis of Colorado. There has never been an openly gay or lesbian member of the U.S. Senate.
Legislatures in Rhode Island, Delaware and Hawaii are likely to tackle same-sex marriage next, with the knowledge that they could pass a bill that may hold up at the ballot box.
All in all, this was a monumental election for Marriage Equality in the United States. There are many GLBT people in the U.S. and elsewhere who think that there are bigger issues in the United States, like the economy and healthcare, but for the time being, there are many millions of gay and lesbian Americans who are revelling in the post-election glow.
This article first appeared on www.samesame.com.au