Election Day: Several Steps Forward, One Step back

Michael Bayley at the Wild Reed shares some comments from Andrew Sullivan on Maine. Like Michael, I generally go along with these comments. Maine is a bitterblow, but there is compensating  good news from Washington, and consolation in looking back at the rapid progress over just a few years.

I would like though to add some additional observations from elsewhere.  Other than Maine and Washington state, there were a number of good local races – from an equality ordinance in Kalamazoo through several openly gay people elected to local offices– or to runoffs later.

In Kalamazoo, voters easily passed a local non-discrimination ordinance.  This had been opposed by the local Catholic bishop – but endorsed by the Episcopalians, who took out a full page newspaper ad in support.

charles_pughIn Detroit, Charles Pugh was not merely the first openly gay candidate elected to Detroit city council – hea topped the poll, and will now be council president. In Houston, Annelise Parker headed the poll for Houston mayor. If she wins the runoff, Houston will become the largest US city with an openly lesbian mayor. (Also in Texas, two Republican senators have endorsed an openly gay man as US attorney.)   Many more gay or lesbian candidates have won local races around the country: of 79 Victory Fund endorsed candidates, a total of 50 have already won, with 6 more going on to runoffs. (That’s a 65-70% success rate, depending on how many runoffs are won) Orientation is no longer an absolute barrier to winning public office. The increased visibility of these new office –holders and their spouses will further diminish the hurdles in future.

I like the words of Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Victory Fund:

Attitudes about our equality are changing, even if sometimes the pace of change seems schizophrenic.  Elections bring good news and bad, but if we fixate on the bad news we can become paralyzed.  That’s not going to help us with the next battle in a war we have to win.

I take two lessons from this. First, the earlier united opposition on religious grounds is collapsing: this is demonstrated by the win in Kalamazoo , and by the highly visible public dissent by many Catholics in Maine.  Second, at the level of simple acceptance and equality in general, we are clearly making strong progress. The remaining hurdles are the word “marriage”, and formal acceptance by the Catholic and other major churches.

I am also impressed by the passage of two cannabis friendly propositions, in Maine and in Colorado.  I am no pothead (I have never touched it myself), but cannot see the sense of prohibition when the regulated sale of alcohol and tobacco are legal.  This seems to be part of a larger move to keep personal decisions out of the public realm.

The Maine result, then is a bitter blow, but against the broader background may prove to be just one battle lost in a war we are winning – a Pyrrhic victory for NOM and the Bishop of Portland. Here, it is worth taking comfort also from the strictly political story from NY-23. The teabag candidate, having won support first from the Republican fringes then from the party establishment, succeeded in forcing out the official GOP candidate – and handed the election to an uninspiring Dem candidate, in a district which was previously won by the GOP in a 65%/35% margin.  This wonderful graphic from Daily Kos says it all:

NY 23

More teabag candidates for 2010?  Bring them on.


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