Election 2010: Gains and losses on key contests impacting LGBT people nationwide

Election 2010 results are proving to be a mixed bag for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. Republicans regained control of the U.S. House, which will pose challenges for advancing progressive legislation, including LGBT rights legislation. In state contests, several gubernatorial candidates who support marriage equality were victorious, but the GOP made numerous gains in state legislatures across the country, which could adversely affect LGBT rights legislation. In Congress, meanwhile, there will be  four openly gay and lesbian members.

A new federal landscape

LGBT rights advocates will be working in a new federal landscape come the next Congress after Republicans regained control of the U.S. House, and Democrats retained a majority in the Senate. This division will likely mean greater gridlock and tougher challenges advancing any legislation.

“We’ll cut to the chase: The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress. Does this mean a blockade on LGBT rights? Not if we can help it. Fact is, our community has always had to fight — and fight hard — for equality. This is nothing new to us. But here’s another fact: There are Americans, from every part of the country, from every background, from every political leaning and of every faith, who support equality for LGBT people — and those vast numbers grow bigger every day,” said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey.

“No matter what the political breakdown is in Washington, the Task Force will continue to identify and work with all fair-minded members of Congress who are willing to support and defend equality for LGBT people. Through our New Beginning Initiative, we will continue to push for the administration and its agencies to make tangible changes that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families — changes that can be done without Congress. We will continue working with local partners in communities across the country to secure equality,” she added. “Bottom line: While political winds and players may shift, the fundamental needs of the people do not. No matter who is in office, people need jobs, protection from discrimination, a roof over their heads, a way to feed their families, a fair shake. No one should settle for less — we won’t.” Watch video here.

Local measures see mixed results in Ohio and Texas

Provisional ballots are still being tallied, but preliminary results in Bowling Green, Ohio, show that Ordinance 7905, which would protect LGBT people from housing discrimination, is passing 50.15 percent to 49.85 percent with all precincts reporting. Ordinance 7906, which would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, education and public accommodations, was losing 50.71 percent to 49.29 percent with all precincts reporting. It could take several weeks for provisional ballots to be verified and tabulated.

The Task Force has been working with One Bowling Green, the locally-driven, grassroots campaign, by committing financial resources, dispatching on-the-ground organizers to Bowling Green, and sponsoring trainings. There was also a massive student-led voter turnout campaign at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Hundreds of BGSU students, who study, live and work in Bowling Green, stood up and spoke out for a fair and welcoming community.

Dan Hawes, who heads up the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s organizing efforts, said: “We are pleased that the housing protections measure appears to have passed, and look forward to a probable victory on Ordinance 7906. One Bowling Green ran a tough campaign in an effort to create a more fair and more welcoming Bowling Green for everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As the provisional ballots begin to be counted, we look forward to our continued work with One Bowling Green to ensure that each and every vote is counted.” More to come on this contest.

In El Paso, Texas, voters approved an initiative to end health benefits for same-sex and unmarried partners of city employees. The initiative was supported by conservative religious groups that took aim at the city’s domestic partners ordinance after the City Council passed it last year.

Pro-marriage equality gubernatorial candidates win

Pro-marriage equality candidates were victorious in several gubernatorial races. In New Hampshire, incumbent Democrat John Lynch defeated Republican challenger John Stephen; in New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomo beat Republican Carl Paladino; in California, Democrat Jerry Brown defeated the GOP’s Meg Whitman; in Massachusetts, incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick beat Republican challenger Charlie Baker; in Maryland, Democrat Martin O’Malley won his re-election against Republican Robert Ehrlich; in Rhode Island, Independent Lincoln Chafee won over Republican John Robitaille and Democrat Frank Caprio; in Vermont, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin defeated Republican nominee Brian Dubie.

“These victories once again show that supporting equality is a winning issue. Voters in these contests have rejected the politics of division and have elected candidates who embrace equality and oppose the scapegoating of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for political gain. All across the nation, same-sex couples and our families are sharing our stories with others in a conversation that is transforming our country. These electoral victories are a testament to those personal and powerful discussions, as the tide continues to move nationwide in favor of marriage equality,” says Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey.

In Minnesota, the race remains too close to call. Democrat Mark Dayton has a small lead over Republican candidate Tom Emmer.

There were disappointments on the marriage equality front, when three Iowa Supreme Court justices lost their seats. They were among the seven justices who unanimously found Iowa’s ban on marriage equality to be unconstitutional. Those justices were targeted by right-wing, out-of-state forces that sought to punish them for the 2009 marriage equality decision.

GOP gains in state legislatures

In New Hampshire, Republicans won a veto-proof majority in the state Legislature, which complicates the political landscape in that state. Now the Republicans have override power in case re-elected Gov. John Lynch decides to veto a bill to repeal the state’s marriage equality law. As a result of Tuesday elections, Republicans took control of both houses of the state legislatures in Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. In summary, 25 state legislatures are controlled by Republicans, 16 by Democrats and four are divided. The rest have not been called yet. The domination of Republicans in the state legislatures could impact next year’s redistricting — likely meaning a more Republican Congress.

Election of openly gay and lesbian members of Congress

David Cicilline, the openly gay mayor of Providence, R.I., won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Cicilline garnered 50.6 percent of the vote to Republican candidate John Loughlin’s 44.6 percent. He will join U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), bringing to four the number of openly gay and lesbian members of Congress. Baldwin won with 62 percent to 31 percent against Republican challenger Peter Theron. Frank snagged 54 percent of the vote, beating Republican candidate Sean Bielat. Polis garnered 72 percent of the vote to beat a challenge by Tea Party-supported candidate Stephen Bailey. Baldwin, Frank and Polis were all re-elected to the House. Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., lost his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack. The electoral victories of openly gay and lesbian candidates reflect that voters, from very different parts of the country, support LGBT candidates for higher offices.

Reproductive rights, English-only and affirmative action ballot initiatives

This election, there were a handful of issues up for a vote that were not directly connected to LGBT issues, but important to the Task Force. Colorado’s Amendment 62, which would have changed the state Constitution to define a “person” as a human being “from the moment of biological beginning” was defeated by a margin of 72 percent to 28 percent, similar to an almost identical failed measure in 2008; Arizona’s Proposition 107, which would change the state Constitution to ban affirmative action, passed by a margin of 59.56 percent to 40.44 percent; and Oklahoma’s State Question 751, which would make English the state’s official language, mandating all state business be conducted only in English, passed by a margin of 75.54 percent to 24.46 percent.