|Gay rights are no longer political Kryptonite|
Tuesday changed the political calculus on LGBT rights in the United States forever. There are lessons to be drawn from this, but first lets marvel at what was accomplished.
Here in New York rising star Sean Patrick Maloney defeated incumbent Nan Hayworth to become the first openly gay candidate elected to Congress from the state. In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin made history by winning her bid for the Senate.
Then Maryland voters made history by becoming among the first in the nation to affirm marriage equality at the ballot box. Maine voters followed by reversing a 2009 ban on marriage equality. Minnesota voters followed up on that by defeating proposals to ban gay marriage in the state's constitution. Finally Washington approved a law allowing same sex couples to marry.
How did this happen? How did the issue that was political Kryptonite in 2004 become so triumphant at the polls in 2012?
I think I have an answer. In 2004 when George W Bush was president he publicly argued for a constitutional amendment that neither he nor his wife privately supported. Nevertheless Bush was prepared to gamble his political career on creating a tempting but unlikely second class citizenship for gay people. He did it for the votes. He did it to lure Evangelicals to the polls to re-elect him. But they got nothing for their efforts, only windy platitudes and a sympathetic handshake.
Now in 2012 the gay community has insisted that Barack Obama publicly acknowledge them, believing - correctly as it turned out - the he privately supported full equality for the nation's LGBT citizens, including marriage equality. To his eternal credit, Joe Biden eventually tipped the president’s hand, but the fact is that it was done. The president made history by speaking up in support of marriage equality.
Unlike Bush however, Obama delivered more than platitudes. He ended the insulting Clinton-era farce of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He signed a hate crimes law that makes it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. He supported the right of gay couples to the same federal benefits that opposite-sex marriage couples get. His administration also helped transgender Americans get full protection against discrimination based on gender in employment, Obamacare has provisions that foster full hospital access and equality for LGBT citizens, and last week he wrote a sensitive and affirming letter of support to a 10 year old girl who was being bullied at school for having two dads.
On Tuesday he was re-elected.
The lesson for the leftover let's be prudent Clinton-era middle-way moderates is that sometimes a little leadership is as transformational and rewarding as flying on autopilot.
It's also time we put some cherished right wing myths out to pasture. African Americans, we were told, would defect from Obama over marriage equality for gays. Hispanics would do the same. Hispanics we were told were natural allies of the religious right. But none of this actually happened. In fact all of these groups formed working coalitions to support Obama's re-election.
Then we were told Catholics would defect over Obama's support of abortion rights and his 'war' on the Catholic Church. But 50 percent of Catholic voters voted for him and his platform on Tuesday, according to exit polls.
Then we were told that the Evangelical vote would marshal against healthcare reform and gay rights advances. But although evangelical turnout was approximately the same as it was in 2008, it wasn't nearly enough to tilt the vote in Romney's favor.
And it wasn't only gay candidates that triumphed, our strongest political allies fared remarkably too. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand won a full term in her own right. Elizabeth Warren replaced Republican Scott Brown in the Senate, and in Connecticut Chris Murphy trounced Linda McMahon, who has spent over 90 million in two losing senate runs. In Maryland Governor Martin also O'Malley saw his leadership vindicated.
Constituting five percent of the electorate, 77 percent of the LGBT's community's vote went to President Obama. Do the math and that means that the number of LGBT voters who chose to re-elect President Obama exceeded the margin of votes separating him and Mitt Romney. That suggests the LGBT vote helped deliver the election to the President.
So maybe now the culture warriors will finally get the message. They have lost the battles and the war. America is young, diverse, tolerant and uninterested in being carved up by race, gender or sexual orientation. Hate, bigotry and discrimination are not American values.
Take it to the polls.