Now that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality has been re-elected, after a campaign that was unbearably tense and exhausting, we can relax and stop spending all day worrying about how every little development will affect his chances of victory. It’s done. We did it.
And that’s not all. In Florida, we managed to defeat Amendments 1 (which would have prevented any penalties against individuals or businesses that refuse to comply with a health care mandate), 6 (which would have barred public funds from being used for abortion services) and 8 (which would have repealed the ban on giving public funding to religions). We also retained three Supreme Court justices who had come under attack by the Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity for being too “liberal”.
Elsewhere, Tammy Baldwin became the nation’s first openly gay senator. Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown, following his ridiculous claims that he could determine her Native American heritage or lack thereof by sight. Todd Akin, who said that women’s bodies would somehow prevent pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape”, lost to Claire McCaskill – after alleging that her campaign was “trying to make me look like some kind of a weirdo or something” and “thinks you should vote based on what people say” (nah, really?). Richard Mourdock, who considered pregnancy from rape a “gift from God”, was also defeated. And Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins survived efforts by anti-gay groups to oust him following his ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009. This is especially notable because three of the other justices had previously been removed by a similar campaign.
But the other really big story of the night? Marriage equality measures in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.
State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?
Quite honestly, it was looking pretty hopeless. State marriage measures had become something many of us dreaded, because we just knew in the back of our heads that we were almost certainly going to lose, no matter how hard we fought. There was always the quiet dread as we watched the poll numbers, initially in our favor, plummet in the days before the vote when anti-gay groups packed the airwaves with ads claiming we were going to teach children how to be gay. And then there was nothing to do but wait for the inevitable blow to land. I stopped getting my hopes up, and so did many others. It was too painful to be that emotionally invested.
We knew that public opinion was trending upward for us, and that the day had to come when this would be reflected in the popular vote, and we would be the victorious ones at the polls. As I said in 2009 after Maine voted to repeal marriage equality:
The margins are narrowing, and the support for gay marriage is still growing. There was a time when it was unthinkable that 47% of any state would stand up for gay marriage. We’ve come this far.
I knew that day would come, but I didn’t quite believe it – I couldn’t let myself. I’m still not sure I believe it.
But yesterday was that day.
In Maine, LGBT rights groups succeeded in placing a same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot. This time, we were the ones on the offense, taking the initiative to seize our equal rights. And in a state which only 3 years earlier had voted against our equality 53-47, we won – 53% to 47%. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Maine by the people’s vote.
In Maryland, a statute legalizing gay marriage was put on hold after anti-gay groups petitioned to put it to a referendum. And last night, we won, 52-48. Marriage equality is now law in Maryland, by popular vote.
In Minnesota, a constitutional ban on gay marriage was proposed, in addition to the statutory ban already in place. The failure of this amendment wouldn’t mean allowing same-sex marriage – its proponents simply wanted to make it even more difficult to repeal the ban, in what was nothing more than a bitter and spiteful thumbing of their nose to future citizens who would overturn their bigotry. And while same-sex marriage is still not legal in Minnesota, voters rejected this amendment 51% to 48%. Enacting marriage equality will now be that much easier.
And in Washington, a marriage equality law was likewise delayed as our opponents worked to force it onto the ballot. While the final results won’t be in for some time due to mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, it’s currently looking good for equality, and CNN has called it for same-sex marriage.
I really was not expecting this. I figured that, if we won any of these, it would have been in Washington. That alone would have been phenomenal – our first victory at the ballot box. But I had no idea we would win all of them. I didn’t think it was possible. And while I steeled myself for defeat, I completely neglected to prepare for victory. I just don’t know what to think, and the reality of it is still soaking in.
For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost. They’re the ones who were rejected by the people. And we’re the ones who can rejoice. Their winning streak is over, and so is our losing streak. Their talking point is dead – marriage equality doesn’t lose at the ballot box every time. They can’t take state-level victories for granted anymore, and we can’t take our defeat for granted either. They told us the only poll that matters is the one on election day. Well, here it is.
Make no mistake, the opponents of LGBT rights gave this their all. They said marriage equality was a step on the road to communism. They said “the future of the family” is at stake and “our religious liberty is in jeopardy”. They said “this issue will destroy and undermine the church”, and marriage would “disintegrate”. AND THEY LOST.
The Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and NOM donated millions of dollars to the campaigns against equality. A reverend described homosexuality as “worthy of death” at an official Maryland Marriage Alliance event. A Catholic archbishop went so far as to tell the mother of a gay son that her “eternal salvation” depends on believing homosexuality is a sin. AND THEY LOST.
A former Maine bishop said that Catholics “cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the Church”. A Maine representative used his own gay brother’s death as an opportunity to claim that “we have no right to redefine marriage”. Minnesota students posted dozens of pictures of themselves citing the exclusively religious reasons for why they voted against our equality. AND THEY LOST.
Their ads featured a man who considers homosexuality a disease, compared families with gay parents to gangs, claimed schools are teaching children “how to sodomize”, and said “the heart of transgenderism is a lie”. AND THEY LOST. They compared gay rights activists to Hitler. AND THEY LOST. They called homosexuality “highly promiscuous”, “centered around anonymous sexual encounters”, “largely predatory”, and that “many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. And they lost.
They lost. Homophobia lost. Racism lost. Sexism lost. Ignorance lost. Bigotry lost.
We won. And so did our country.