America’s Coming-Out Election: How Gay Issues Became Mainstream

The victories for gay rights activists were not just in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington. The vote on Nov. 6 may have been a national tipping point for the acceptance of gays and lesbians as everyday citizens

  • Share
  • Read Later
Elaine Thompson / AP

Gov. Chris Gregoire (center) speaks as other elected officials stand behind at an election watch party for proponents of Referendum 74, which would uphold the state's new same-sex marriage law in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

Gay is closer to ordinary than ever before in America after unprecedented voter support for same-sex marriage was shown in four states. But beyond Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington, Election Day 2012 produced other milestones and will likely be remembered as the day gay rights came fully out of the closet to take their place among other facets of everyday public life in mainstream America.

By winning at the polls in those four states, gay-rights supporters ended an unbroken losing streak that had dated to 1998, when Hawaii voters overwhelmingly voted to amend their constitution to let lawmakers ban gay marriage. State legislatures, notably New York’s last year, have legalized gay marriage, but never before had voters endorsed it at the ballot box.

Public opinion on gay marriage, as on most things political in today’s America, remains split. Numbers released this week by the Pew Center show that in the central Southern states, including Kentucky and Tennessee, barely a third of respondents favor gay marriage. But everywhere else voters are either more evenly divided or decidedly favorable.

(MORE: Ballot-Initiatives Roundup: What Won and What Lost)

But those numbers only hint at a broader momentum. Gay-rights supporters won other prizes as well. Across the U.S., gay candidates and those who are strongly supportive of gay rights won their races. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate in Wisconsin (GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s home state) and will become the nation’s first openly gay Senator when the new Congress forms. Meanwhile, the man who won the right to replace her in the House of Representatives is gay too, and he’ll join five others who are openly gay in that body, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which contributes to the campaigns of gay and gay-friendly candidates. When state legislatures across the country return for business, seven of those assemblies will welcome an openly gay member for the first time. “This is what a tipping point looks like,” wrote gay-rights scholar Nan Hunter of Georgetown University Law Center on her blog, Hunter of Justice. Equally jubilant was the nation’s largest gay-rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, which was still headlining the news on its website as late as Friday: “Equality Landslide. Unprecedented mobility for equality.”

Opponents saw the results in no less urgent terms. “Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns,” the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote on his influential blog the morning after the election. The votes in favor of gay marriage in Maine and the other three states should sound a call to action for Christian conservatives, he continued. “After 33 victories, last night brought multiple defeats … Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America.” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, leader of the church’s opposition to gay marriage, said no vote would change the truth about marriage. “November 6 … was a disappointing day for marriage, as the effort to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in the law lost by only a narrow margin in four states, even though vastly outspent by those who promote the redefinition of marriage,” Cordileone said in a statement released by the U.S. Conference of Bishops. “The meaning of marriage, though, cannot be redefined because it lies within our very nature. No matter what policy, law or judicial decision is put into place, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union. It is either this, or it is nothing at all.”

(MORE: Obama’s Gay-Marriage Conundrum)

Professor Michael Klarman of Harvard Law School, whose book From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage was published last month, tells TIME that the election’s results should be seen as a powerful indicator of where the country is headed. “Tuesday’s results demonstrate with clarity the sorts of changes that people kind of understood were happening but didn’t have sufficient direct confirmation of,” he says. He adds that at least on some level, the votes in favor of gay marriage shouldn’t be surprising, given that public-opinion polls have shown shrinking opposition to gay marriage nationwide and that some analysts, like Nate Silver of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, have seen even in the string of losses on the issue growing support that would eventually turn into success at the ballot box.

Klarman continues, “But the fact that things actually played out as one might have predicted now disrupts the standard narrative that whenever people actually vote on gay marriage, they reject it. Now that’s no longer true — and in a big way. In all four states voting on the issue on Tuesday, the voters rejected the anti-gay-marriage position.”

So what’s next? Klarman says activists will be pushing more ballot measures and upping the pressure on legislatures to increase the number of states where marriage is legal to the double digits. Sooner than that, the long-simmering legal challenges in federal court that seek to end legal barriers to gay marriage will be considered by the Supreme Court. The Justices are expected to meet Nov. 20 to consider which, if any, of the six federal cases challenging gay-marriage bans they will hear. Those cases include lower-court decisions seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning California’s 2008 constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage in that state.

(MORE: Viewpoint: How Gay Marriage Broke Through the Voting-Booth Barrier)

Most observers think the court will take one or more of the cases, and if that happens, Klarman says, it’s entirely possible that Tuesday’s results could be influential on the Justice most likely to be the swing vote on the issue. “It is possible that these results might influence how a judge like Justice Kennedy thinks about the issue, because we know his constitutional jurisprudence is not indifferent to the force of public opinion,” Klarman says.

Still, no one expects a Supreme Court ruling before next year. So for now, perhaps the biggest political impact of Tuesday’s results will be in the healing it represents for gay and lesbian voters who had been scarred by President Obama’s previous record on their civil rights.

That rift began four years ago, when gay-rights supporters were thunderstruck to see that in reliably blue California, the same voters Obama had pulled to the polls through a historic outreach had stayed in the booths long enough to check yes on Prop 8 — the amendment that halted gay marriage in the Golden State and eviscerated one of the most powerful gay-rights rulings ever issued by a state supreme court.

(MORE: How the Gay-Marriage Victories Are (Slowly) Transforming the Notion of Family)

A string of setbacks for gay rights followed, culminating in a vote two years ago in Maine, where activists had been convinced the state’s independent-minded voters would strike down an amendment aimed at preventing gay marriage. They were soundly disappointed.

All along, Obama kept to the sidelines on gay marriage – even keeping quiet in June of last year when he was raising money in Manhattan at the same time state lawmakers were engaging in guerrilla warfare over whether to make gay marriage legal in New York.

But Obama began applying salve to those wounds in May, when he became the first major presidential candidate (not to mention sitting President) to voice support for gay marriage. On Tuesday, elated gay voters rewarded the Obama campaign by casting their ballots for him by a 3-to-1 margin. The bandages can now be removed.

Michael A. Lindenberger is a longtime contributor to TIME.com and currently a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University.

MORE: In Gay-Marriage Reversal, President Obama Faces Risk on All Sides

36 comments
swati44
swati44 like.author.displayName 1 Like

To all those on this post reciting Bible verses and bemoaning the fate of our country/lamenting the upcoming apocalypse--there is a reason why our country was founded upon the separation of church and state. You are of course free to interpret your own faith and believe what you wish but there is a reason why arguing against gay marriage on the basis of religion is ridiculous: your personal faith is completely irrelevant to the issue.

WyattJ.Larew
WyattJ.Larew

@swati44 I was being funny you tool.

WyattJ.Larew
WyattJ.Larew

@swati44 

It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and marijuana being legalized on the same day. Leviticus 20:13 - "if a man lays with another man he should be stoned" We just been interpreting it wrong all these years

LegalBagel
LegalBagel

This is really the result of decades of leftist control of the public schools.  It's called brainwashing.  Good is evil.  Evil is good.  Church is bad.  Marriage is bad (unless it is a man marrying a man).  God is bad (unless it is a non-Jewish or non-Christian version).  Smoke what you want.  Screw who you want.  But making money is bad (unless it is made by a union member, union boss or government bureaucrat ... or transferred to you via the benevolent government). Men are bad.  White people are bad.  Logic is bad.  Reason is bad.  America is bad.  That pretty much sums up my Washington State public education -- so glad I didn't keep on going back for more lunacy at other institutions of higher Marxism, like the UW.  Given the sorry state of so-called education in Washington State, I have no reason to question why the ballot initiative in Washington passed. 

historywatcher
historywatcher

There exist several points on which a committed follower of Yeshua may agree with proponents and practitioners of homosexuality regarding their orientation, as follows: Gay individuals are fellow human beings who are as needy of love, affection, understanding and stability as heterosexual human beings. Same-sex attraction and relationships have existed from ancient times. Scientific inquiry in the form of studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, strongly indicate that one’s sexual orientation, be it hetero- or homosexual, and particularly for males, is inborn (though some individuals can trace their “gayness” to a traumatic experience, such as rape). Homosexual and bisexual behaviour are also widely observed throughout the animal kingdom. And lastly, that humans who happen to manifest a homosexual orientation in their lives can be as warm, sincere, honest, etc. (as well as evince negative traits) as any of their heterosexual fellows. Wherein, then, lies the controversy? Precisely in what is seen by some in the former grouping as “the enemy”: religion - and specifically - Christianity, among the “Abrahamic” faiths. And yet there are many who endeavour to find justification for homosexuality within the pages of the Book of Books, that religion’s canonical writings that serve as its treatise on personal and private morality, prophecy, history, et al. But when taken in their totality, the Writings make a convincing and complete case for the normative role of heterosexuality and “traditional marriage”, and the concomitant rejection of homosexuality in all its manifestations, as a morally acceptable alternative. Those who would read the opposite into the inspired text must needs make some extraordinary semantic convolutions and demonstrate a no mean command of philology.

Praying-Brother
Praying-Brother

Please share this  Scientific evidence that people are born this way.If you have some you'll be the first,this life style is a choice it is your choice.Life is short and yes there is something after life to live for,whatever you believe in,study it research it,look for the real story  it involves.I choose a risen savior and I'm not afraid to tell people.Your choice is your own.Each person will have a meeting one day.The question will be why do you deserve to be let into heaven,what are you going to say?   

historywatcher
historywatcher

@Praying-Brother 

The Biblical text is relatively frugal in mentioning the specific sin of homosexuality, but what is therein recorded is explicitly negative and condemnatory, as would be expected for a lifestyle that is not kadosh (set-apart) but something that incurs divine wrath, to wit: “I am forcing out ahead of you the people who live there. Because they did all these sins, I have hated them. Do not live the way those people lived.” In the same chapter in Vayikra, a few verses prior, “men having sex with one another” is listed among those practices Hashem considered “detestable” and deserving of death. These mitvoth are unambiguous, and when set against the narrative from creation to the future establishment of the kingdom, are in consonance with the moral standard there advanced. For its part, the B’rit Hadashah (commonly known as the New Testament) echoes this censure on homosexuality, along with adultery and drunkeness, among other vices heterosexuals can be equally guilty of, but adds two critical qualifications: the spiritual origin (ancestral idolatry) of the homosexual orientation and the reality of escape from that condition: “Some of you used to be like that. But now the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Spirit have washed you and made you holy and acceptable to God”. Since the latter circumstance is critical for kingdom citizenship beyond this temporal existence, the message of hope and regenerative love that is found in the person of Mashiach must go forth with both frankness and compassion.

PlumbLine
PlumbLine

The great falling away has begun........

....Luke 17:28-30.........28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

MacdonaldBank
MacdonaldBank

It is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked fantasy.To see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is shameful. According to biblical law, a father can sell his daughter as a slave.Bibles and the torah which includes leviticus -- should be immediately banned … for promoting hatred against minorities … namely the gay community and the crosses removed from all schools and churches. One should appreciate each day of life and not expect another. By enjoying their tax exempt status and benefits from the state it also puts churches at the mercy of the state; to be forced to adhere to the human rights laws. Religion is thriving like a cancerous growth on society that should be stopped in its tracks; outlawed & banned. This holier than thou – written so there it shall be -- fallacy; should be stopped!

thriver
thriver

A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Holy Bible, Mark 14: 51 and 52

thriver
thriver

Famous Jews:

Jesus said it's all bout love; Marx said it's all about revolution; Freud said it's all abut sex and Einstein said it's all relative.

Teehee

Praying-Brother
Praying-Brother

We cannot exchange Gods Truth for a Lie.  Read  Romans 1 :25-27

thriver
thriver

@Praying-Brother When I grew up evangelical Christian didn't accept divorcees, didn't listen to rock music, didn't play cards, only watched Disney movies, didn't read A Catcher in the Rye -- all of these I was told emphatically were directly forbidden by God himself.

So if there are entire communities of evangelical Christians who now consider these things small potatoes - what does that say about God's direct messaging?

RobertAndrewShowalter
RobertAndrewShowalter

@Praying-Brother If God has a universal truth, then how do eastern religions that have no concept of Christianity or the Western bible fare in this grand scheme of things?  Is there really a whole half of the planet's population living a lie?

wandmdave
wandmdave like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@Praying-Brother Man it is frustrating when people try to dictate the lives of others based on the authority of a mythology.

JonGibson
JonGibson like.author.displayName 1 Like

The religious' warning to gays has been heard by gays.  Just ask any gay person what the bible says, or what they understand Christians believe, what they've heard from Christians 1000+ times....

If God exist, without doubt He gave each person free will to determine their own lives.  Who are Christians to restrict what God hasn't decided to?  Think He HAS restricted activities scriptures say He has judged evil?

Then why do they occur?

Each person is responsible to God for themselves alone.  Problem is, Christians don't believe that, and they don't follow Christ.  Generally speaking, of course.

thriver
thriver

@JonGibson I think the more American, more evangelical branch of Christianity is far more interested in Paul of Tarsus's version of the Christian message - In my eyes he was a bit of a fear-monger, a sorta Rush Limbaugh of the day.

Praying-Brother
Praying-Brother

Are you saying it's wrong to care about other people?  What happened to no man left behind,Love thy Neighbor as thy self.

JonGibson
JonGibson like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@Praying-Brother No amount of 'caring', or force, can change a person's mind about something their mind never made up for them in the first place.

Scripture doesn't report that Jesus told his followers to drag people to heaven... instead he told them to entreat people, and to be an example to them.  The example part = walking the walk, actually living what you expect others to live.  Btw, expecting anything is wrong.  Why do you think we have the parables of the mote and log?

Jesus told us we had more than enough on our own plates than to worry about what's on another's.  The only power we have is our example, our behavior towards others.

Get it?

How would you like for your neighbor, someone who believes differently than you, to do whatever they could to get you to behave like them, espouse the same beliefs as them.

Religious freedom in the USA?  Only for those that believe like you do, right?

RobertAndrewShowalter
RobertAndrewShowalter like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JonGibson @Praying-Brother "Only for those that believe like you do, right?" -- Exactly!  I love Christians who feel their faith is persecuted and the government is out to destroy them because there's people who disagree with them.  Anyone true to their faith simply quietly lives their life according to it.  Any true religion should be teaching love and tolerance, not giving anyone the authority to chastise or damn another.  That is the great perversion of man to what should be a teaching of good morality.

Praying-Brother
Praying-Brother

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do"Luke 23:34  We must have Conviction and Compassion come together.Hate the Sin and not the Sinner.

thriver
thriver

@Praying-Brother Why do you suppose that is - that huge swaths of the developed world don't get it but you do?

No narcissistic thinking in that is there? 

I find that people with doubts, uncertainties, people wondering about suffering and love far more spiritually driven than those of you who are so certain you understand the very nature of God.

cintus931028
cintus931028

And the next agenda...the man-boy marriage, man-girl marriage, teacher-student marriage, et al

TickTock
TickTock like.author.displayName 1 Like

@cintus931028 This type of argument is known as the slippery-slope fallacy. The Greeks recognised it two and a half thousand years ago.

RobertAndrewShowalter
RobertAndrewShowalter like.author.displayName 1 Like

@cintus931028 It's ridiculously immature and thoughtless to assume that each of those issues are related.  Incest and authority-skewed relationships that you're listing have their own problems and issues and are not a product of gay relationships in general.  There is no floodgate that will be opened, so to speak.

RobertAndrewShowalter
RobertAndrewShowalter like.author.displayName 1 Like

I do love how some Christian conservatives see this as the end of the world, and yet this nation has been one of the few to be so hung up.  Other nations that haven't been as closed as us have incidentally not caused the end of the world.  Maybe it turns out that what happens in the United States does not specifically trigger God to destroy the world.  And maybe we'll get along just fine despite the fact that specifics of Christianity haven't worked their way into government law.  And gosh, maybe demands of those who aren't Christian at all won't actually bother those who are steadfastly Christian ... y'know, unless said Christian wants to let it bother them.

Praying-Brother
Praying-Brother

I Pray that the Lord opens your eyes to truth, so that your soul doesn't burn for eternity in Hell,In Jesus Name.Amen

TickTock
TickTock

@Praying-Brother I thought I had found God a few days ago when I looked underneath a rock in my garden. Turns out it was just a slater that had crawled under there to get out of the heat of the sun. "Hello, little one!" I said. The slater didn't reply. I went inside and drank lemonade.

rmlan327
rmlan327

You worry about your soul, I'll worry about mine.. In other words Stuff a sock in it!!

RobertAndrewShowalter
RobertAndrewShowalter

@Praying-Brother I'm pretty sure the truth you're selling is only to teach me to exclude others based on something they cannot control.  I think love and acceptance of others is more important than you telling me to get in line or burn in hell.

PlumbLine
PlumbLine

Time is running out for the gentile nations to call upon the name of the Lord.........

....Luke 17:28-30.........28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

TickTock
TickTock

@PlumbLine Hilarious! Have you heard the one about the priest and the altar boy?

WyattJ.Larew
WyattJ.Larew like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and marijuana being legalized on the same day. Leviticus 20:13 - "if a man lays with another man he should be stoned" We just been interpreting it wrong all these years.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,106 other followers