Overall, the Republicans landed enough victories to retake control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats, but not enough to take control of the Senate. It remains to be seen what a GOP-controlled House will mean for pro-LGBT measures, like passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, lifting the Defense of Marriage Act, or repealing of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (which could still pass in the lame duck session) but a Republican-controlled chamber has never passed a major piece of pro-LGBT legislation, and all three expected incoming leaders have terrible records on issues of gay and transgender rights.
HRC said last night:
“Social justice movements always experience steps forward and steps back and this election turned out to be a mix of both,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Even though we will face greater challenges in moving federal legislation forward, nothing will stop us from using every tool to advance LGBT equality at every level. Attempts to hold back the tide of the equality movement will surely put anti-LGBT leaders on the wrong side of history.”The loss of the House to anti-equality leaders is a serious blow to the LGBT community. The presumptive leadership team of Reps. Boehner, Cantor and Pence all score zeros on the HRC scorecard and many soon-to-be committee chairs have long anti-LGBT records. The past four years of Democratic leadership stopped anti-equality lawmakers from being able to move the most damaging legislation and amendments forward, however, the 110th and 111th Congresses did not hold pro-equality majorities on every issue. The 112th Congress will prove even more challenging in rounding up the votes needed to advance pro-LGBT legislation. A particular disappointment is the loss of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal champion Patrick Murphy in the U.S. House.
However, there were also a number of significant victories for LGBT candidates and allies. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand defeated her opponent, and cited her support for LGBT rights in her victory speech. California's Barbara Boxer defeated opponent Carly Fiorina to retain her seat, while all three openly-gay members of Congress (Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Jared Polis) won re-election. They'll soon be joined by a fourth openly-gay lawmaker - David Cicilline of Rhode Island. Cicilline defeated three others to win the seat vacated by the recently-retired Patrick Kennedy. (watch his victory speech here.)
Rhode Island was also home to another pro-gay victory, as pro-marriage Independent (and former Republican Senator) Lincoln Chafee was elected to replace vehemently anti-gay Don Carcieri as the state's Governor. That coincided with a win for pro-marriage incumbent Governor Martin O'Malley in Maryland, where the state's already significant number of LGBT state lawmakers was increased even more, to seven. According to the Victory Fund, Maryland's LGBT caucus is poised to help pass marriage equality legislation, which the reelected Gov. Martin O’Malley has vowed to sign. Pro-marriage Democrat Andrew Cuomo also defeated anti-gay Carl Paladino to become the next Governor of New York. (Paladino apparently held up a baseball bat in his consession speech, threatening Cuomo.)
The Victory Fund also points to a number of other key state-level victories for LGBT candidates, including:
–Nickie Antonio’s election to the Ohio House. Antonio will be the first openly LGBT person to serve in the state legislature.
–Marcus Brandon’s election to the North Carolina House. Brandon will be the state’s only openly gay state legislator and one of just five out African Americans to serve as state lawmakers.
–Kevin Lembo’s election as Connecticut State Comptroller. Lembo joins just a handful of openly LGBT candidates to have been elected to statewide positions.
–Laurie Jinkins’ election to the Washington State House. Jinkins is Washington’s first openly lesbian state legislator, and could help her gay colleagues pass a marriage equality bill in the next legislative session.
Despite the victories, there were significant losses for pro-LGBT candidates in two key states, as voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire put their states' marriage laws in jeopardy. In Iowa, anti-marriage Republican Terry Branstad defeated incumbent Chet Culver in the race for Governor. More disturbingly, voters kicked out all three state supreme court justices who voted in favor of marriage equality in the landmark 2009 case that brought marriage to the midwest. However, according to the New York Times, the seats could be reappointed by Culver before he leaves office. In New Hampshire, pro-marriage Governor John Lynch was elected to a historic fourth term. But voters also not only returned control of the legislature to Republicans - when all the votes are counted they may have given the GOP veto-proof majorities in both houses.
Probably the biggest local-level LGBT victory was won by openly-gay Jim Gray, who is the new mayor of Lexington, Kentucky. Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund’s president and CEO said “This is a tremendous victory for Lexington, for Kentucky’s LGBT community and for fairness. We are proud of Jim Gray and his fantastic campaign staff who fought hard for this win.”
All told, the Victory Fund says more openly LGBT candidates won election to public office in the U.S. in 2010 than in any year in America’s history. Chuck Wolfe issued the following statement about the group’s success:
“There is no sugar-coating the loss of so many of our straight allies in Congress, but we can be proud that our community continues to expand its voice at all levels of government in America. Out public officials are having a sizable impact on the local, state and national debates about LGBT equality. Increasing their numbers is a vital part of a long-term strategy to change America’s politics and make our country freer and fairer for everyone. We will continue to focus on training committed, qualified candidates, and we will work hard to get them elected to public office.”