Democrats make gains in both houses of Congress, but Noriega falls short in Texas

President-elect Barack Obama

President-elect Barack Obama

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama wrote a new page in the history books on Tuesday when he became the first African-American elected president of the United States of America.
Although Obama took an early lead in Electoral College votes, tight races in Virginia and Florida left the outcome up in the air for several hours.

His victory brought immediate responses from national LGBT organizations.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the election represents “a paradigm shift,” adding, “The pendulum has swung away from the anti-gay forces that dominated the political landscape for too long and toward new leadership that acknowledges our equality.

“For the past eight years, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was a dead end for our community. Now the LGBT community and the entire social justice movement will have a voice at the highest level of government. Our years in the wilderness are over and this really is a change we can all truly believe in,” Solmonese said.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called Obama’s win the “ the dawn of a new political era of hope and engagement in the life of this country.”

Carey added, “ A new administration brings a promise for a sea change in the tenor of the national dialogue on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. For eight years, we have endured a hostile administration that treated us with contempt, rather than as part of the strength, talents and spirit of this country. It’s long past time our country said goodbye to those destructive, divisive ways and ushers in an era in which each of us is encouraged and inspired to recognize our common humanity.”

Obama’s victory at the top of the ticket appears to have spilled down to benefit other pro-LGBT Democrats further down the ballot.

Democrats had, by midnight, gained a confirmed five new seats in the U.S. Senate, with four still left undecided. If the Democrats can claim those four seats, they will have the “filibuster-proof” majority in that chamber.

In the U.S. House, Democrats had picked up 13 seats, widening their majority there to a 261-174 gap.

Openly-gay U.S. Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin both easily won re-election.

Frank defeated Republican challenger Earl Sholley by a margin of 67 percent to 26 percent. Baldwin defeated Republican challenger Peter Theron, 70 percent to 30 percent.

Texas Democrat Rick Noriega, who had been vigorously backed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and other LGBT Democrats in the Lone Star State, fell short in his bid to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn. Voters sent Cornyn back to Congress by a vote of 55 percent to 43 percent.

But the LGBT community got good news in two races in Colorado, where openly-gay Democrat Jared Polis easily defeated Republican Scott Starin for the District 2 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and gay rights foe Marilyn Musgrave lost to Democratic challenger Betsy Markey in U.S. House District 4.

Polis beat Starin 60 percent to 36 percent. Musgrave, the incumbent Republican who was one of the authors of the proposed federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, fell to Markey by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent.

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