By Alexandra Temblador
After this week’s election that gave Republicans, many of whom are opponents of LGBT issues, control of the senate, the LGBT community is a little shaken up. Yes, we can all agree that we would feel a little better if Mark Udall of Colorado and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, supporters of gay marriage, hadn’t been beaten by their opponents. Just as we would have been more optimistic if Democrat Mike Michaud of Maine would have become the United States first openly gay governor. And we can all agree we would have liked a few more openly gay candidates like Democrat Sean Eldridge of New York, husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, and Republican Richard Tisei from Massachusetts, in the senate.
Despite these losses, there were some positive election results in relation to LGBT rights:
- Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney of New York defeated Republican Nan Hayworth becoming the first openly gay man to be elected to Congress from New York.
- The five openly gay members of the House of Representatives, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Jared Polis of Colorado, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Mark Takano of California, won re-election.
- Democrat Maura Healey of Massachusetts became the first openly gay attorney general in the United States.
Not enough for you? Even though many of the newly-elected Republicans pose a challenge to the LGBT movement, all is not lost. Here’s why:
- We can still look to the courts for an LGBT victory. Just this week a Missouri state judge overruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage making it the 33rd marriage equality state. Similarly, a Kansas state judge found the ban on same-sex marriage in Kansas unconstitutional, a ruling that will hopefully be seen through following the one week stay the judge placed on the ruling.
- LGBT supporters still plan to push the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent employers from discriminating against LGBT in the workplace. The Human Rights Campaign has expressed enthusiasm for pushing a comprehensive civil rights bill, a law that guarantees full federal civil rights protection for the LGBT community in regards to discrimination in many areas: employment, education, housing, etc.
- Obama, state legislatures, the Supreme Court—they all have their own form of power to make a change.
- The current U.S. Senators are returning to Washington D.C. on November 12th, the last time before the current session ends and the new wave of senators arrive in January. Although it is still early to make predictions, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act could be passed in this last session whether on its own or as an amendment to another bill such as the defense authorization bill. Think positive—anything could happen.
Lastly, there is one very important thing to keep in mind when it comes to this week’s election: You.
The majority of citizens in the United States support LGBT rights, and the numbers are increasing every day. With that in mind, we can hope that the recently-elected Republicans won’t be too keen on upsetting the growing number of LGBT supporters in their areas. Politics 101: keep your constituents happy.
With that in mind we most definitely should remain positive about this week’s elections. America is still the voice of its people and if there was ever a more important time to be heard, it is now. Maybe you can begin with: “Dear Newly-Elected Representative…”