Gay Rights Keeps on Rolling Through

Like some of my readers, I was not happy with the Republican landslide on Tuesday. While my economic views are more in line with the GOP than the Democrats, I vote based on civil rights issues, where I align much more with the (current) Democratic Party. However, I would like to discuss why I believe major events on Tuesday actually point to  progress on gay rights. Certainly, it would have been better for the Gay Rights Movement if the Democrats had kept control of both houses of Congress and won more gubernatorial elections, but let’s consider several things that happened on November 4. First of all, at the beginning of the week, there were three remaining Senate Democrats who oppose same-sex marriage: Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor, and Mary Landrieu. Manchin was not up for re-election, but Pryor and Landrieu were. Pryor was crushed like a walnut by Republican Tom Cotton, losing by approximately seventeen percentage points. Landrieu is being forced into a runoff, and Politico has reported that the Democratic Party is basically abandoning her. So in essence, we are down to a maximum of two homophobic Democrats in the Senate and quite possibly only one. Furthermore, two of the most rabidly homophobic Democrats in the House, John Barrow, who voted for a Federal Marriage Amendment, and Nick Rahall, who cosponsored one LAST YEAR, were swept out. Maybe Blue Dog Democrats in the South will take a lesson from this that spouting off homophobic pieties does not enable you to beat Republicans. Second, the state of Massachusetts elected Charlie Baker as their new governor. Baker is a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage and has been public about his views since 2010, when he first ran for governor. I distinctly recall my embarrassment as a Georgian during the 2010 Elections that the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts would publicly support gay marriage, while the Democratic candidate in Georgia, Roy Barnes, would not. Social conservatives have long claimed that fiscally conservative, pro-gay marriage Republicans are unelectable, and Baker proved them wrong on Tuesday. The Senate race in New Hampshire provides a great contrast. That election pitted pro-gay marriage Democrat against Republican Scott Brown, who has consistently stopped short of supporting gay marriage. In contrast to the “deep blue” Massachusetts, New Hampshire is a battleground state, having gone for Bush in 2000. Conventional wisdom would say that Brown would have had an easier time there than Baker would have had in Massachusetts. In fact, however, Brown lost. So it appears from events on Tuesday that gay-friendly Republicans do better in the Northeast than homophobic ones. Third, it was on Tuesday that a judge ruled in favor of marriage equality in Kansas. All of these factors demonstrate that the Republican victories on Tuesday do not reflect a backlash against gay rights. To be sure, bigotry is bread and butter for the majority of Republican politicians, and with control of the House and Senate, Republicans will fight to stop equal rights from being achieved nationwide. But they are not going to win that battle, and if they are foolish enough to think that their recent wins are a voter mandate to denigrate gay people, then their foolishness may cost them in 2016.

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