In the end, it all comes down to the ballot box. In addition the a presidential contest which pits the most pro-LGBT president in American history against, well, let’s just charitably say the other guy, we also have ballot initiatives in four states in which gay families are undergoing the indignity of asking their neighbors to validate their existence. Here is where those states stand so far:
Maine: Question 1, which would give same-sex couples the right to marry, is leading 52-44. There is a huge gender gap (59-37 for women, 43-55 for men), as well as a huge party affiliation gap (75% of Dems support Q1, 75% of Republicans oppose it). When broken down by age groups, only seniors oppose it, but not by as much as you might thing, 46-51.
Maryland: Question 6, which will also give same-sex couples the right to marry if passed, is leading 55-39. But the poll is very problematic, in that it doesn’t ask the question as it appears on the ballot. Further, respondents were asked whether they strongly support/support/oppose/strongly oppose, rather than the simple yes/no question on the ballot. It’s unclear how that poll will translate at the ballot box.
Minnesota: Amendment 1 would deface the state’s constitution with a ban on same-sex marriage. KTSP/SurveyUSA last Sunday had Amendment 1 barely failing at 47-48, which was the first time the tracking poll has shown support for Amendment 1 trailing. Public Policy Poling has Amendment 1 being defeated 52-45. Observers are actually expecting the vote to be close, although there is one quirk that works in our favor. In order for a proposed amendment to be approved, it has to be approved by more than half of all ballots cast, not just those in which either a “yes” or “no” is marked for that particular amendment. If someone were to vote for President but decide to skip the amendments, that ballot would effectively become a “no” vote for those amendments.
Washington: Referendum 74 would make same-sex marriage legal in Washington State. Of the four states, polling in Washington is the narrowest right now, with the most recent poll showing Ref 74 tightening to 49-45 after having enjoyed a wider lead earlier in the campaign season. Because Washingtonians vote by mail, it may be several days or even weeks before final results are in.
Here are some other races we’ll be watching:
Arizona: State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) is trying to make some history of her own. If she wins against former mayor of Paradise Valley Vernon Parker (R) for Arizona’s newly drawn 9th congressional district, Sinema will be the first openly bi member of Congress.
California: Mark Takano (D), an openly gay high school teacher, holds a slight lead over John Tavaglione to represent Riverside County in the 41st district. If he wins, the Japanese-American will be the first openly gay person of color in Congress.
Iowa: State Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins is facing a tough retention election as Sen. Rick Santorum and other social conservatives campaign to have him removed from the Iowa Supreme Court. Wiggins was joined the other justices for a unanimous ruling in 2009 which granted marriage equality for same-sex couples. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit lost their retention votes in 2010. Three more justices will face retention votes in 2016.
Massachusetts: If former State Sen. Richard Tisei (R) succeeds in ousting Rep. John Tierney (D) from the House, Tisei will be the first Republican to enter Congress while openly gay. Tierney, who has held his seat since 1997, has seen a bitter fight this go round, with allegations of corruption lodged against his wife and brothers-in-law. The 6th congressional district is considered a swing district, and the race appears to be very close.
New York: Sean Patrick Maloney (D), openly gay and former senior advisor to Pres. Bill Clinton, is looking to unseat freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth. Hayworth has been supportive of some gay issues, saying that she “respects” the decision by the state of New York to provide marriage equality for gay couples.
Rhode Island: Openly gay freshman Rep. David Cicilline (D) is facing a tough battle against to keep his house seat against former Rhode Island police superintendent Brendan Doherty. Cicilline continues to face controversy over his time as Providence mayor.
Wisconsin: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is vying to becoming the first openly gay person in the U.S. Senate in her race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). Most polls have the campaign as a dead heat following a recent rise in the polls for Baldwin.
Also in Wisconsin, Mark Pocan (D) is expected to win the seat currently held by Rep. Baldwin. If he defeats Chad Lee (R), we will see, for the first time, a seat in Congress pass from one out member to another.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) is expected to win over his challenger, Kevin Lundberg. In January, he will become the longest serving LGBT person in the House following the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).
I know that every year it is said that that year’s election is the most important election of a lifetime, and there is a strong argument for that to be made for 2012. But the fact is, we should approach every election as though it were the most important. Because every election is. Even if we would just rather it all be over with as soon as possible. I plan to be up late looking at results.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
West Hollywood Incorporates As A City: 1984. Voters in the an unincorporated area of Los Angeles known as West Hollywood voted to incorporate as a city and elected a city council in a combined election. Attention in the news media focus on the fact that three of the five new council members were gay or lesbian in the new municipality, while many gay leaders hailed the new city with gays making up an estimated 40% of the population as a “gay Camelot.” But the main issue that ignited the incorporation campaign in a city where 90% were renters was the decision by the County of Los Angeles to significantly reduce its rent-control regulations. Nevertheless, gay leaders saw incorporation as yet another stepping stone toward full acceptance.
Valerie Ferrigno, who was selected by the council to serve as mayor for the council-manager city government, became the first known lesbian mayor of an American city. “You don’t have to say avowed lesbian or admitted lesbian,” she said. “I am a lesbian. I won’t deny it.” She then summed up the significance: “We were illegal not too long ago. The first consenting adults bill wasn’t proposed until 1968. Ten years ago I couldn’t have been elected, and not because I was too young. We’ve come a long way in a very short time.”
Michael Cunningham: 1952. He’s gay and he’s a writer, but don’t call him a gay writer. That’s not what he does. He wins Pulitzers for writing novels with the title of The Hours, or at least he did in 1998. He also won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1999. In 2002, The Hours was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Nicole Kidnam, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.
Born in Cincinnati, raised in Pasadena, Cunningham studied Enlish Lit at Stanford and received a Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While studying for his Masters, he had short stories published in Atlantic Monthly (back when Atlantic used to publish short fiction) and Paris Review. He receved a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 and an NEA Fellowship in 1998. He has taught at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and at Brooklyn College. He currently teaches at Yale. His most recent novel, By Nightfall, was released in 2010.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?