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LGBT community celebrates ‘equality landslide’

By Aaron Blevins, 11/15/2012

Same-sex marriage approvals offer hope in California

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Members of the LGBT community had many reasons to rejoice following the 2012 Presidential Election, which resulted in three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — approving gay marriage and another — Minnesota — refraining from defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Furthermore, President Barack Obama, who repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, was re-elected, and as many as 118 openly gay legislators were elected or re-elected nationwide, said Lorri Jean, the executive director of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

“I have never felt this good about an election in my life,” she said.

Jean said Obama is the first U.S. president in history to be elected while supporting full LGBT equality. She said he “has been crystal clear about his desire to repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act).”

“If that was it, we’d still have a lot to celebrate,” Jean added.

On Tuesday, she was still in disbelief that the gay marriage ballot measures passed in Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota.

“We have lost election after election after election since these things started in 1995,” Jean said. “This year, I was emotionally prepared to lose them all. But we won all of them, which no one — no one — predicted.”

But what does that mean for progressive California, whose gay marriage measure is still wrapped up in the U.S. Supreme Court? Justices are scheduled to discuss Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in the state, and DOMA, a federal law that defined marriage as a union between a man and woman, on Nov. 30. The justices are expected to meet in private to discuss whether the court should hear both cases.

“I think [the election] really bodes well for this decision,” Jean said, adding that the victories should increase the likelihood that the court will not hear the case, allowing a lower court’s ruling that the measure is unconstitutional to stand. “Then, marriage will be legal again, probably immediately.”

While she believes that the court will not hear the Prop. 8 case, she predicted that the Supreme Court will hear DOMA. Jean said the court could “easily” say that the justices have already heard cases similar to Prop. 8, but there is no set precedent with DOMA.

“I worry any time a case that is so important to us goes before the Supreme Court, because it’s so undecided,” she added.

Although there is uncertainty with those issues, Americans’ support for LGBT issues and legislators during the 2012 election was unwavering. Jean referenced Wisconsin candidate Tammy Baldwin, who became the first openly gay U.S. Senator.

Additionally, several states, such as California, New York, Wisconsin and Arizona, elected their first LGBT members to Congress, and two states re-elected gay incumbents, she said.

At the state level, seven new states elected their first openly LGBT lawmakers, Jean said. She said that development brings the total number of states with an LGBT legislator to 40.

“Just think how drab the remaining ten must be,” Jean added.

She said New Hampshire elected the first openly transgender legislator in the country’s history, and Ohio elected its first openly gay Republican to its Legislature. Iowa retained a Supreme Court judge who backs gay marriage, Jean said.

“When the dust settles, in the next few months, it is anticipated that four states will have openly LGBT speakers,” the executive director said. “When you look at all this stuff combined, this was not incremental progress, this was an equality landslide. …I really think this election is ushering in a new era for our community. We have never seen anything like it.”

Jean said that virtually every time Americans were given the opportunity to vote for freedom, they did.

“Notice has finally been served to anti-LGBT zealots in our country,” she added. “They can no longer count on being able to use our lives, our rights, our dignity as human beings as a wedge issue. …I feel like the momentum is clearly on our side.”

Jean referenced Obama’s victory speech, in which he stated that Americans will rise and fall together as one family, despite political divides. She said president-elects frequently state similar sentiments, but 2012’s speech was not the usual rhetoric.

“This is the first time in my adult life that I ever felt like that included me,” Jean added.

 

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