For many people, myself included, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of elections when they’re not in a Presidential election year. Twelve months after the media frenzy of last year’s “major” elections, Election Day came again yesterday… It didn’t feel as noteworthy to many Americans, as there wasn’t the high profile of the year before, but there were still some important results for both the Republican and Democratic parties.
This isn’t about those races.
Predictably, what I want to share today are the results of three ballot issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.
Earlier this year in Maine, the state legislature passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage, and Gov. Baldacci signed it into law on May 6th. On September 2nd, groups opposed to the legislation finished gathering enough signatures (more than fifty-five thousand) to put the issue on the ballot in the hopes that the legislation would be overturned. And on November 3rd, the majority of voters rejected same-sex marriage in the state.
A crushing blow, of course — it’s like California’s Proposition 8 all over again, except in this case it was the elected representatives of the people that had authorized same-sex marriage in the first place (rather than “activist judges” as conservatives are fond of saying) This ballot initiative had the potential to either be the first state to authorize same-sex marriage by popular vote, rather than through judicial decisions or the legislative process. Instead, it became yet another state to have a legal right to same-sex marriage taken away by the masses.
Another issue drawing LGBT attention was in Washington state, where Referendum 71 proposed an expansion of the state’s domestic partnerships to include every right and benefit that state law afford married couples. While the final votes haven’t been tallied yet (as the state votes by mail, so there’s a slight delay) all appearances suggest that it’s going to pass. If so, it will be an encouraging victory, but not quite the same emotional impact as a right to “marriage” being affirmed or taken away.
Third, Ordinance 1856 in Kalamazoo, Michigan expands the city’s anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. There’s been a difficult journey towards this, as the city commission had first approved this ordinance late last year, but then rescinded it and opened up to public comment for six months. The city commission eventually readopted the ordinance, then agreed to put it on the ballot when the opposition clamored again. In a landslide vote – 62% to 38% – voters approved the anti-discrimination ordinance.
And finally, for bonus points, there’s the possibility of another victory in December. Annise Parker, an openly lesbian candidate for Mayor of the city of Houston, received the largest share of votes in the city (at 30%.) Since Houston law requires the winning candidate to receive at least 50% of the vote, Parker and her leading opponent (who had received 25% of the vote) will face each other in a run-off election. If she wins, she will be the openly gay mayor of the fourth largest city in the United States.
All in all, a mixed bag of election results for LGBT issues… and that’s not even touching the many elections to local, state, and federal office. But hey, a single blog can only cover so much ground!