Whatever the Outcomes, Volunteers & Groups Fought Hard for Marriage Equality
Tracking Other Key Races
While most attention is focused on the ballot initiatives, there are other elections of direct importance to LGBT Americans. The first, of course, is the president’s re-election.
A key state race is in Wisconsin, where U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is running against former Gov. Tommy Thompson for the U.S. Senate. If she wins, Baldwin will become the first openly LGBT member of that chamber. In addition, small business owner Mark Pocan won the Democratic primary to fill her House seat. Should he win in November -- likely in the heavily Democratic district -- he will be first out-gay candidate for Congress to succeed an out-gay member. Baldwin appears to be leading against Thompson, although anything could happen in a state that has proved a wild card. Voters narrowly rejected recalling their GOP governor, and the Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, hails from the Cheese State.
"This would be an important voice that we have not had," said Pittman. "We know that it makes a big difference in advancing pro-equality legislation when you have an openly LGBT member of a legislative chamber. We are concerned about that and are actively watching scores of other races for the House of Representatives and other races across the country." HRC has made about 200 endorsements for this election cycle.
"Obama has shown great support for our issues and worked very hard to make changes to issues that affect every LGBT person in this country," said Nipper. "But whoever wins these races, we’ll keep doing the work as the advocates we are. It’s important to remember to vote our conscience and vote for someone with a track record of working on our behalf, and who has evolved to the point of being with us."
After the Election, the Struggle Continues
Marriage equality is a bellwether issue that has excited and mobilized people around the country -- on both sides. But for too many of us, marriage takes a backseat to issues that influence where we can live, work and go to school. LGBT people are still being discriminated against in schools, the workplace and public accommodations. Though some activists believe marriage equality will help secure other rights, we cannot ignore the struggle to protect our most vulnerable community members.
HRC’s Pittman warned against letting marriage equality overshadow other important concerns. "We can’t lose sight of the fact that in half of the states it’s still legal to fire someone for being LGBT," he said. "We have to seek to make gains in passing new employment discrimination laws in these states, or adding gender identity to protections in states like New York, Maryland and Delaware."
Cash at United for Marriage National said, "There are still adoption struggles and workplace protections, but longer term, marriage equality is helping us be seen as part of society, a normal part, with everything that entails. If people are married in a state that doesn’t let them adopt kids, that argument loses a lot of strength."
"There are multiple issues related to LGBT equality," Solomon added. "The fight for the freedom to marry helps on multiple issues that our community faces, from immigration to economics and seniors’ end-of-life challenges. There are so many benefits to securing marriage."
The problem of bullying in schools is brought home every time we read about the tragedy of another teen suicide. National organizations have teamed with local partners to advance anti-bullying legislation and strengthen laws in Nevada, Louisiana and Ohio.
Gay seniors also face challenges. An "Aging and LGBT People" initiative addresses significant concerns elderly gay people, from homophobia in long-term care institutions and hospitals to maintaining community in the face of isolation and invisibility.
Certainly, after years of fighting homophobia in black churches and black culture, backing from the NAACP represented a significant breakthrough. Cash cautioned about comparing out struggles to the civil rights movement. "The Civil Rights Movement was a more important step than" marriage equality, he said. "But this is the next step. We are the children of that movement, and we cannot be afraid of discussing and being connected to that. Are we the same? No. People aren’t risking their lives for the freedom to marry. But they are traveling around and becoming one America. And that’s amazing."