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November 7, 2008

Marriage lost

Historic presidential election also brought three ban amendments

While many LGBT people were cheering the historic landslide election of Barack Obama, they were slapped by voters who passed anti-gay constitutional amendments and ballot issues in four states.

Three out of four gay or lesbian candidates for Congress also won seats in Tuesday’s election, which saw the approval of three amendments to bar same-sex marriage and a law prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting or fostering children.

The most crushing news was the Proposition 8 win in California. At press time, it appeared that by a four percent margin, 52 to 48, the state passed a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

The measure effectively overturned May’s California Supreme Court ruling that has allowed over 12,000 gay and lesbian couples to marry there.

The effort, led primarily by religious groups, see-sawed with the opposition in pre-election polls. Even prominent Republicans came out against the amendment, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Attorney General Jerry Brown changed the wording of the ballot issue to make it clear that it would take away an existing right to marry. He also opined last summer that if it passed, it probably would not affect couples already married, although it ends gay and lesbian weddings in the state.

Proposition 8 became the most expensive issue campaign in history, bringing in over $70 million between the two sides, including $22 million from individual Mormons, led by the church, to push for its passage.

With three to four million absentee ballots yet to be counted, the No on 8 campaign refused to concede defeat on Wednesday afternoon, but most of those are from areas of the state with lower support for marriage equality.

Full marriage remains available to lesbian and gay couples in Massachusetts and in Connecticut, where a constitutional convention aimed at passing a marriage ban was also defeated at the polls. Neither state has a residency requirement, nor does Canada, where same-sex couples may also marry.

An Arizona constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage passed by a slightly larger margin, 56 to 44 percent.

It was the second attempt to amend the state’s constitution. The first failed two years ago, primarily because the language barred domestic partnerships as well, and opposition forces pointed out that it could deny benefits to heterosexual couples who were not married.

This time, with narrower language, it passed handily.

In Florida, where 60 percent of the vote is necessary to amend the state constitution, anti-gay groups mustered a 62-38 win for their anti-marriage amendment, although the state already has a law against same-sex marriage and no pending court cases that could have overturned it.

The three measures bring to 30 the number of states that have passed marriage ban amendments since Hawaii and Alaska passed the first two in 1998.

Arkansas, having already banned same-sex marriage, turned instead to barring adoption and foster parenting by same-sex couples.

The measure, which more specifically bans adoption or foster parenting by any unmarried couple living together, passed 57 percent to 43 percent.

While it would bar fostering and adoption by unmarried heterosexual couples, the main thrust of the campaign was centered around same-sex couples.

First out gay man elected to the House

The congressional races were less gloomy for LGBT people.

In Colorado’s second congressional district, Jared Polis made national history by being the first openly gay man elected to Congress, an almost foregone conclusion after he won his party’s primary in this Democratic stronghold that includes the city of Boulder.

Other gay men have come out after being elected to Congress and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin was out when she first ran, but this is the first time a male candidate was out before being elected.

In her Madison, Wisconsin district, Baldwin retained her seat with a victory margin of over 2 to 1 against Republican challenger Peter Theron.

Barney Frank, who is one of the House’s most powerful Democrats as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, defeated his Republican opponent, Earl Sholley, by a slightly larger margin.

The landslides in favor of Baldwin and Frank were expected.

One congressional defeat came in South Carolina, where out lesbian Linda Ketner attempted to unseat incumbent Henry Brown, Jr. While her defeat was expected, she lost by only six percent.

In Colorado’s fourth congressional district, anti-gay zealot Marilyn Musgrave saw her seat taken away by Democrat Betsy Markey, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Musgrave’s major claim to fame was her introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the United States Constitution.

New York Senate tips toward marriage

For the first time in 40 years, the New York Senate will have a Democratic majority, after the party won at least 32 seats in the 62-seat chamber.

This makes the Senate much more likely to pass a full same-sex marriage bill approved by the Assembly earlier this year. The measure has the backing of Gov. David Paterson, but GOP leaders of the present Senate had blocked it from coming up.

In Oregon, Kate Brown will become the next secretary of state. Since there is no lieutenant governor in that state, Brown, who is open about her bisexuality, will be Oregon’s second highest elected official.

At least 77 other LGBT candidates were also elected or re-elected to state or local offices around the nation, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. The Washington, D.C. group backed a record 111 out candidates for office this year. Other LGBT candidates, who did not seek or receive Victory Fund support, are not included in their figures.

70% of GLB votes went to Obama

The presidential election saw Barack Obama facing off against John McCain, who until this election cycle had been relatively fair to the LGBT community. However, his rightward march for his party’s nomination, and the selection of Sarah Palin, turned some gays away from their former support for McCain.

While Obama opposes same-sex marriage, his message of change and of the integration of marginalized groups struck a chord with many queer voters. In almost every stump speech regardless of the audience, Obama included “gay and straight” in his list of Americans who “are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

In Ohio, almost every major population center in the state went for Obama, including all of the northeast corner of the state. It marked the first time since Lyndon Johnson that Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, went for a Democratic candidate.

A CNN exit poll indicated that of the 4% of voters who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, 70% voted for Obama, 27% for McCain, and 3% for another candidate. The overall popular vote was 52.3% Obama and 46.2% McCain.

Ohio also saw record attendance at the polls, with over five million people turning out to cast votes in the historic election.




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