Last night was a historic moment in the long struggle for LGBT rights and equality in the United States. Marriage equality passed in two states – and looks close to passing in a third as votes continue to be counted – and Minnesota became the first state to defeat a discriminatory marriage amendment. Jewish communities in each of these states played a critical role in securing these victories, we at the RAC were part of a coalition in Maryland and committed time and energy to the effort there, and the Union for Reform Judaism has been broadly supportive of all of these initiatives. Though there is plenty of work left to do in the fight for full equality, we can celebrate today.
Maryland and Maine are currently fighting for the privilege of claiming that they are the first state to approve same-sex marriage by popular referendum. Marriage was approved in Maryland, where it received critical support from the NAACP and African American Ministers for Action, with 52% of the vote. In Maine a broad coalition of groups from all ends of the political spectrum were able to secure 53% of the vote for marriage equality and justice. The effort in Washington was still too close to call as of this writing, but advocates for marriage equality remain optimistic and the Governor has already congratulated the campaign for its presumptive success.
This victory brings the count of states in which same-sex marriage is legal to 8 states and the District of Columbia (Washington would bring the total to nine). It means that 16.3% of the U.S. population lives in states where same-sex marriage is legal or fully recognized (again, winning Washington would make it roughly 18.5%).
We reached another major milestone last night when the good people (I have a little bit of home-state pride here) of Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s first female senator and the first openly lesbian or gay person to be elected to the senate. She will be joined in the 113th Congress by newly-elected LGBT congressmen Marc Pocan (D-WI) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) as well as reelected incumbents Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Cicciline (D-RI). This is the highest number of openly LGBT people serving in congress in history.
While we celebrate today, the struggle for equality continues. It is still too early to know exactly what last night’s results mean for critical legislative initiatives like repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and creating better protections for LGBT youth in schools. It is critical that the momentum and energy that we built on our way to these crucial victories does not end here.
Image courtesy of Gary Cameron/Reuters