Election 2011 includes victories for workers, voters’ rights, women’s reproductive freedom and LGBT rights

Sarah Reece of the Task Force's Academy for Leadership and Action celebrates victory in Traverse City, Mich. It was one of the many election victories to celebrate.

Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Michigan’s Traverse City, workers’ rights in Ohio, women’s reproductive freedom in Mississippi, and voters’ rights in Maine were among those scoring big victories in the Nov. 8 election. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force assisted in many of these efforts.

Victory in only LGBT ballot measure campaign this election

Residents of Traverse City, Mich., voted to retain the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which includes explicit protections for LGBT people. According to local media reports, the city voted to keep the ordinance by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force provided staff and financial support leading to this victory. A team of Task Force organizers helped get out the vote in Traverse City, the nation’s only LGBT-specific ballot campaign this Election Day. The Task Force worked with Traverse City Equality and sponsored a Michigan Power Summit with a phone-banking session specifically aimed at raising critical dollars to secure victory in Traverse City.

“The people of Traverse City have sent a clear message that they value their LGBT friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members and don’t want to see them left vulnerable to discrimination. This victory creates a stronger and more welcoming city not only for LGBT people and their families, but for everyone. We were proud to have partnered with Traverse City Equality in the nation’s only LGBT-specific ballot measure campaign this election. This is a victory for Traverse City and for our common humanity,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Mississippi “Personhood Amendment” fails

In one of the country’s most highly watched contests this election, voters in Mississippi have rejected Initiative 26, which sought to amend the state Constitution to establish legal “personhood” at the moment of fertilization. If it had passed, Initiative 26 would have become the nation’s most restrictive law against abortion and birth control.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force traveled to Jackson, Miss., to phone bank and stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Mississippians for Healthy Families campaign.

“This is a victory for Mississippi and for all those who value women’s lives and the right of people to make very personal — even life-saving — decisions about their own bodies free of unwarranted government intrusion,” said Carey. “Initiative 26 would only have served to hurt women and their families, not help. As a staunch supporter of reproductive freedom, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force stands in solidarity with the women of Mississippi and our organizational partners fighting to protect women’s rights and lives.”

Victory for voters’ rights in Maine and union rights in Ohio

Mainers voted to overturn a new Republican law that restricted voters’ rights by ending same-day registration in the state.

For nearly four decades, eligible Mainers have been able to register and vote on Election Day, but in June the GOP-controlled state Legislature voted to overturn the law. Then, a coalition of progressive organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s local partner EqualityMaine, launched a People’s Veto campaign to restore same-day voter registration, gathering the required petition signatures in a record-breaking four weeks.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has been in Maine working with the Protect Maine Votes campaign and assisting in the push to get out the vote.

“We were proud to join with Mainers from all walks of life who refused to be stripped of their essential voice in government,” said Carey. “We should be making it easier, not harder, for people to participate in this most fundamental American act. Mainers sent the message, loud and clear, with their votes today.”

In Ohio, meanwhile, supporters of workers’ rights scored a big victory with the repeal a Republican-backed law limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees. Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to repeal the law. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a longtime ally of labor, applauds the outcome.

Win in Iowa

Iowa Democrat Liz Mathis won in Iowa’s 18th District state Senate race. With this win, Democrats will maintain a majority in the state Senate, where the leadership has halted the process for seeking an anti-marriage constitutional amendment in that state. Marriage equality was achieved in Iowa by a state Supreme Court decision in 2009.

Building toward future victories

Besides the contests on Election Day, the Task Force was on the ground working toward future victories to improve the lives of LGBT people and create positive, lasting change and opportunity for all. This election season, we were also in:

The Task Force's Rebecca Voelkel gives a $10,000 check to Minnesotans United for All Families' Richard Carlbom.

Minneapolis, Minn., where we’re building a foundation of support to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment poised for the November 2012 ballot aimed at banning marriage equality.

We are supporting Minnesotans United for All Families. We hosted a Nov. 6 Task Force Minneapolis House Party that raised more than $30,000.

  • Raleigh-Durham, N.C., where our organizers were on the ground training volunteers for the action on Election Day at the polling places. North Carolina same-sex couples and their families are under attack by those trying to pass a proposed constitutional ban denying marriage equality/relationship recognition. The measure is poised for the May 2012 ballot. For more information, visit http://equalitync.org/.
  • Holland, Mich., where we helped identify LGBT supporters to bolster future efforts to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the city’s nondiscrimination law. This past summer, a measure to include LGBT people in existing housing and employment protections failed by just one vote in the Holland City Council.
  • Anchorage, Alaska, where a top-notch fund-raising organizer of ours led workshops at the One Anchorage Leadership Training Boot Camp. Our local partner, the One Anchorage Campaign, is in the process of collecting and verifying voter signatures in order to proactively place a pro-LGBT equality measure on the April 2012 ballot. It takes money to get the job done, and our expert was there to share proven strategies and tactics. Together at the Boot Camp, they raised more than $15,000 to continue to create change.
  • Los Angeles, Calif., where our organizers worked side by side with coalition partners such as the ACLU of Southern California to gather signatures and raise awareness for the Savings Accountability Full Enforcement (SAFE) California campaign’s effort to abolish the state’s death penalty. The Task Force has been a longtime opponent of the death penalty. In 1999, we passed a formal resolution against it, and continue to call for an end to this discriminatory and inhumane policy.