The re-election of Barack Obama, as well as the wins in states wherever gay marriage was on ballot — in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington — is a massive watershed for LGBT rights. No longer will politicians — or anyone — be able to credibly claim to be supportive of gays, and to love and honor their supposed gay friends and family, while still being opposed to basic and fundamental rights like marriage.
The very ads pushed by the enemies of gay rights, like the mastermind behind the antigay ballot measures, Frank Schubert, which claim you can support gay equality but be against gay marriage, no longer hold water. From now on, you’re no friend to gays if you don’t support full equality, and you’re a bigot if you try to defend that position, as Mitt Romney did.
Many people previously hid behind the idea that since the president, prior to May of this year, didn’t support marriage equality, but could still be considered “pro-gay,” they could be considered pro-gay too. But President Obama not only evolved; he set a new standard: being pro-gay means supporting full equality.
This is a president who ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” signed a gay-inclusive hate crimes law, urged voters in the states to vote for marriage equality and wrote a letter to a 10-year-old last week offering her support against bullies who might stigmatize her for having two dads. He’s a president whose administration helped transgender Americans get full protections in employment under existing laws banning discrimination based on gender and made sure his health care law fosters full access and equality for gay and transgender people.
And he was re-elected.
That re-election happened, make no mistake, because the president energized his based, including LGBT activists who pushed him hard and made it clear that they wouldn’t be energized if he didn’t stop dancing with the right and stood up for full equality. He learned how that could work for him, and his re-election proves that it can done. No longer will there be an excuse for politicians who claim to be pro-gay but who drag their feet for fear of repercussions.
The wins on marriage in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and probably Washington (votes are still being counted but activists are almost certain they won) are groundbreaking, and it’s only the beginning. The tide has turned after losses on marriage at the ballot in over 30 states. It’s a direct result of the shift in public opinion and the president both capitalized on that and helped change public opinion further. The enemies of gay equality are now on the run.
Those enemies, however, still have a hold on the Republican Party, and the GOP will have to reckon with that. Certainly it will be front and center in the GOP’s own coming civil war over the fallout of this election. The Human Rights Campaign rightly said in a press release that last night’s victories, which included the election of Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay or lesbian person to win a U.S. Senate seat, and other pro-equality big wins, were a landslide for LGBT rights. Opponents of LGBT rights were stomped, and the pressure will be on the GOP to oust them for good. As the Rick Santorum wing claims the 2012 losses mean the party needs to double down on cultural issues like gay marriage, there will hopefully be those who make the correct point that, in fact, the party needs to drop gay-bashing and move into 21st century if it wants to survive.