While the battle over marriage equality has earned a lot of attention, Tuesday night was also an historic night for LGBT political candidates and those who support LGBT rights.
Over the next few pages you will find five of those victories and details on why they are so important.
1) Tammy Baldwin Becomes the First Out LGBT Senator
Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin made history on Tuesday night when she was elected to the US Senate, becoming the first openly lesbian, and first openly LGBT, member of the upper chamber.
Despite opponents attempting to smear her as a “radical lesbian” and her Republican rival Tommy Thompson aping his favorite talking point, “Tammy Baldwin is so liberal that even Nancy Pelosi has to turn left to talk to her,” Baldwin managed to secure a narrow victory over her rival.
Baldwin campaigned heavily on fiscal responsibility, job creation and health care. During her time as a Representative she has backed the Buffet rule and, among a number of other initiatives, called for higher tariffs on Chinese imports so as to promote American manufacturing. She also campaigned heavily for the Affordable Care Act and also supported improvements to veteran healthcare.
Baldwin has also championed LGBT rights legislation like the Respect for Marriage Act and the DADT repeal.
Bladwin did acknowledge in her acceptance speech the wider election victory for women and the LGBT community that her becoming a US Senator represents, but she pledged that she would be a senator for everyone:
Now, I’m well aware that I will have the honor to be the first woman Senator from Wisconsin. And I’m well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate.
I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference — a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security.
Here’s the promise I want to make to you: I will be a Senator for all of Wisconsin.
You can read Tammy Baldwin’s full remarks here.
2) Iowa Voters Retain Justice Who Voted Against Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Despite a massive campaign to unseat Justice David Wiggins for the part he played in the 2009 unanimous 7-0 vote overturning Iowa’s gay marriage ban, Iowa citizens voted this week to retain the judge, marking a win for judicial freedom.
Religious conservatives in 2010 led a successful campaign that charged Iowa’s supreme court of judicial activism and culminated in the unseating of three of the justices, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit.
The effort was led by Bob Vander Plaats, of the group Iowa For Freedom, who said at the time, ”It’s the people rising up, and having a voice for freedom, and holding an out-of-control court in check. I think we sent Iowa a message, but also sent the country a message: The power is still inherent in the people.”
Plaats returned for this year’s effort to denounce Judge Wiggins and, for good measure, roped in our old friend Rick Santorum.
The effort failed however, with 55 percent of the public voting “yes” to retain Judge Wiggins.
The next test will come in 2016 when another three justices who ruled in the case, Varnum v Brien, will be up for retention votes.
3) Openly Gay Mark Pocan Wins Tammy Baldwin’s House Seat
Wisconsin, while backing Tammy Baldwin in her senate race, also voted in favor of Democratic legislator Mark Pocan to take Baldwin’s vacant District 2 House seat, marking the first one-in-one-out of its kind for openly LGBT legislators.
Pocan, a former State Assemblyman, received strong support from the HRC and the Victory Fund.
Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe said in a statement, “It’s fitting that as Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin fights to win a historic victory in the Senate, Mark Pocan will follow in her footsteps as one of the most powerful voices for LGBT equality in America.”
Pocan has previously said that he, like most legislators, will have a focus on jobs and the economy. He has also pledged to work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and wants to advocate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act, key pieces of legislation for LGBT Americans and binational families.
4) West Virginia Elects Stephen Skinner, The States First Openly Gay Legislator
West Virginia made history on Tuesday night when voters decided to elect Stephen Skinner to represent District 67 in the State House.
This is the first time West Virginia has elected an openly gay person to the state legislature and as such represents a significant moment given that openly LGBT legislators and officials have been shown to be strong voices of advocacy that are able, in turn, to change the hearts and minds of fellow colleagues.
“This is a big step forward for West Virginia, and we could not be prouder of Stephen’s accomplishment,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which endorsed Skinner.
Skinner said in a post on his Facebook page:
I am humbled by the confidence that the people of the 67th District in West Virginia have shown in me. Thank you to all who supported this campaign–whether near or far–and helped make this win possible. I embrace the opportunity to move West Virginia forward.
5) The Re-Election of President Obama
There is of course one final important victory this week: the re-election of President Obama, a pro-equality President who this year became the first ever sitting POTUS to officially back marriage equality.
Obama’s administration has vowed to continue working toward fulfilling America’s promise of equal treatment under the law, and we look forward to witnessing that manifest in, for instance, perhaps finally seeing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act become a reality.