UPDATE: I was wrong. This did, in fact, turn out to be the most important election of my lifetime. The reelection of Barack Obama, the election of the first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin (WI), the crushing defeat of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Minnesota, and a win for marriage in three states (Maryland, Maine, and Washington) made this a special evening. There are now nine states and the District of Columbia where LGBT couples can marry. It is times like this when it’s great to be wrong.
I know it’s fashionable to say every four years, “this is the most important election of my lifetime.” But, today’s election really isn’t.
The most consequential presidential election I’ve witnessed was in 1992. In this scary time period, the Religious Right was in ascendance and Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson launched a gay bashing culture war from the stage at the Republican National Convention. Vice President Dan Quayle was making waves about television’s Murphy Brown having a child out of wedlock, and the Christian Coalition’s yet-to-be-disgraced Ralph Reed was carving out a name for himself as a kingmaker.
Had George H.W. Bush won, the Robertson/Reed/Buchanan axis would have taken credit and been celebrated in some circles as heroes. This would have greatly accelerated campaigns to limit gay rights. The victory would have come at a precarious time when most Americans did not know a gay person and still associated homosexuals with AIDS. This might have created a perfect storm of anti-gay nationalism focused on punitive measures.
In 2004, George W. Bush was able to exploit lingering homophobia to help pass 11 state constitutional amendments to ban marriages for same-sex couples. However, by this time the threat of being rounded up or severely persecuted had largely subsided because too many people had come out. (Bush’s campaign manger, Ken Mehlman announced he was gay following the campaign and Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, was already out)
While not the most vital election in the past twenty years, the outcome at the polls tonight will have significant consequences for America and especially the LGBT community. Barack Obama is in favor of marriage equality. Mitt Romney supports a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
“Mitt Romney supports marriage as the union of a man and a woman,” the president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, told BuzzFeed reporter Chris Geidner. Brown remembered the aftermath of the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s 2004 ruling to include gays and lesbians in civil marriage. “He was very strong, he spoke at rallies, he was strong the whole way through.”
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is sucking up to the nation’s most ignorant Evangelicals, echoing their fear mongering about President Obama being a threat to “Judeo-Christian values.” In remarks to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ryan said that President Barack Obama’s path for the next four years is a “dangerous” one.
“[It is] a path that compromises those values — those Judeo-Christian values that made us a great nation in the first place,” Ryan said, discussing religious liberty and Obamacare.
Claiming Obama is against Judeo-Christian Values is a rather odd assertion considering that the president has long been a church-going Christian. However, because he is a black man with a funny sounding name, Ryan can hint to this rabid crowd of backward banjo pickers that Obama is a secret Muslim.
In other election news, history could be made on Election Day if Tammy Baldwin defeats Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin to become the nation’s first lesbian Senator. The race will help decide who controls the Senate.
In four states – Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, and Maine – gay marriage is up for a vote. Opponents of marriage equality have won 31 straight fights on this issue at the ballot box. This allows them to claim that they represent the will of the people. Even a single victory will erase this talking point and may signal the beginning of the end for the dominance of the anti-gay industry. Adding to speculation that at least one victory is at hand, the pro-equality side has outspent the homophobes in the four states $32.7 million to $11.3 million.
I suspect that we will win at least one, and maybe two, of these fights. But, I would strongly caution the LGBT community not to get too far down if all four votes come up short. The soulless political mercenary, Frank Schubert, is running nauseatingly dishonest ads scaring voters into believing that their children will be brainwashed if gay people are allowed to marry. Fear often trumps sanity in such races and it takes virtually no political skill – just a skullduggery and sociopathic tendencies – to terrorize people about minorities.
The anti-gay industry is much like the modern Republican Party – a shrinking base of angry white people who are demographically doomed. According to an article in Politico:
Of the party’s reliance on a shrinking pool of white men, one former top George W. Bush official said: “We’re in a demographic boa constrictor and it gets tighter every single election.”
When I first came out of the closet in 1988, only 35% of Americans thought homosexual relations should be legal. Polls now show that 70% of the 18-30 demographic support marriage equality. Each year, more folks call gay people friends than fiends and this should keep professional homophobes up at night, regardless of the election results.