Marriage equality prevails in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota; Washington state still too close to call


In a banner night for the LGBT community, President Barack Obama won re-election, Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate, and voters in both Maine and Maryland approved marriage equality on Tuesday.

Voters in a third state, Washington, also appeared to have approved marriage equality, although the vote was still too close to call Wednesday morning due to the number of ballots that remained uncounted. And in  Minnesota, voters defeated an anti-gay marriage amendment.

“When the history books are written, 2012 will be remembered as the year when LGBT Americans won decisively at the ballot box,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. ” The dreams of millions of fair-minded Americans were realized as discrimination crumbled and equality prevailed.”

Locally, openly gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez easily won a third four-year term, while state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a staunch LGBT ally, narrowly defeated anti-gay Republican challenger Mark Shelton.

In one of the few disappointments of the night for the LGBT community, Houston attorney Ann Johnson appeared to have lost her bid to give Texas a second openly LGBT state legislator.

But setbacks like Johnson’s defeat were easier to stomach given Obama’s re-election and Baldwin’s groundbreaking victory in Wisconsin.

“This night will go down in history,” Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement reacting to Baldwin’s win. “This is a historic victory not only for the people of Wisconsin, but for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans across the country who have finally gained an authentic and powerful voice in Congress’ upper chamber. Tonight Tammy shattered a glass ceiling that has existed for more than two centuries, and we could not be more thrilled.”

HRC called Obama’s re-election a landmark victory for LGBT people. Griffin said there’s “no doubt that we will continue to see tremendous progress toward full equality like we’ve made during his first four years.”

“While some pundits predicted the president’s support for marriage equality would hinder his campaign, we know the opposite is true,” Griffin said. “President Obama’s historic and heartfelt declaration that all loving and committed couples should be able to marry further rallied millions of voters and sparked conversations that advanced marriage campaigns around the country. His reelection after expressing support for marriage equality is further proof that the momentum is on the side of marriage for all families. With our Ally-in-Chief back in the White House, we look forward to working with him on a host of issues including addressing workplace non-discrimination and expanding federal benefits to same-sex couples.”

A short time after Obama’s victory became apparent, Freedom to Marry announced that Maine had become the first state in history to approve marriage equality for same-sex couples with a majority vote on a ballot measure.

“It’s hard to overstate the national significance of this vote,” said Freedom to Marry National Campaign Director Marc Solomon. “For years, our opponents have argued that we could not win a majority vote at the ballot. Today, Maine voters proved them wrong, standing up for the Golden Rule and for freedom for all Mainers.”

Moments later, HRC said Maryland voters had also approved marriage equality.

“This is a milestone night for the simple truth that when Americans are presented with the real lives of their friends and neighbors, they have no choice but to vote for their equality,” Griffin said. “It is the momentum reflected in poll after poll that shows a growing majority for marriage equality across the country.”

The victories continued overnight. At about 1:30 a.m. Dallas time, the Associated Press said Minnesota voters had defeated a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“Minnesota is a prime example that we are experiencing a sea change in how Americans view their LGBT neighbors,” Griffin said in yet another HRC statement declaring victory. “With 30 states having voted to write discrimination into their constitutions, Minnesotans stood up and said, ‘not us,’ and more are sure to follow their lead.”

The only marriage vote that remained in question Wednesday morning was in Washington state, where the pro-marriage equality group said it was “cautiously optimistic.”

“We’ll need patience, but the numbers are coming in the right way,” wrote Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage. “And with Maine and Maryland successfully defending the freedom to marry, we believe we are poised to make history in Washington State. But there are still well over 400,000 ballots to be processed, and we have to be patient.”

The national triumphs for the LGBT community were echoed locally in the victories by Valdez and Davis.

“I’m blessed, I’m honored and continually grateful for the progressiveness of Dallas County,” Valdez told Dallas Voice after addressing a crowd at the Round-Up Saloon, where Stonewall Democrats of Dallas hosted a watch party. “This has to be a very progressive county or they wouldn’t keep putting in someone like me continually.”

Admitting that her first term in office was a challenge, Valdez said she has proven herself as sheriff in the change she has brought to the department during her second term.

“It’s not the same department that I got when I went in there. It is totally different,” Valdez said. “The first four years were quite a struggle but after the second term, things started to flow. We want to continue to build on the progress so we can continue doing a good job.”

Davis claimed victory late in the night against Shelton in Senate District 10.

Davis won with 51 percent of the vote, with Shelton receiving 49 percent.

Davis addressed a large crowd at the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Fort Worth, thanking the community for their support in building a strong family that re-elected her.

“What we’ve really done is build a community, a big extended family,” Davis said. “We have each other, we fight for each other and we pray for each other. That’s how a family, a community takes on a challenge.”