Despite Maine defeat, a good year for gay elections

Maine marriage defeated

Voters in Maine rejected new marriage rights for same-sex couples 53 percent to 47 percent. The referendum put a marriage bill passed by the state’s legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci in May this year up to a “people’s veto.”

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said the defeat was likely to embolden spirits, as advocates continue pushing for expanded civil rights protections across the country.

“Although we lost our battle in Maine, we will not allow the lies and hate — the foundation on which our opponents built their campaign — to break our spirits. We are on the right side of history and we will continue this fight,” Solmonese said in a release. “I am angry. But more importantly, I am determined that with the anger I feel today from this outcome in Maine, we’ll rise ever stronger to demand equal treatment under the law and equal respect for our relationships in Maine, California, New Jersey, and every state of the Union.”

Wash. DPs upheld

In Washington state, voters took to the polls to decide whether to keep or scrap new legal protections for same-sex couples registered as domestic parnters. The anti-gay Protect Marriage Washington gathered more than 120,000 signatures to put the Referendum 71 on the ballot after the new passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Protect Marriage and other anti-gay opponents had derided the new law as “everything but marriage.”

On Nov. 5, the Associated Press called the tight election for the LGBT community — the new domestic partner law was approved by voters 52 percent to 48 percent.

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Voters in Washington state last faced an LGBT-related referendum in 1997, when Initiative 677 proposed a new employment non-discrimination law. That measure was rejected by close to 60 percent of voters.

Pam’s House Blend blogger Lurleen said the difference between the 1997 defeat and this year’s success is indicative of a shift in public attitudes.

“Contrary to the current image of the Puget Sound area of Washington as progressive, not one single county — not even Seattle’s home of King County — voted to approve I-677,” she wrote. “Contrast that with the current election where the electorate as a whole approved R-71 and majorities in 10 of Washington’s 39 counties have approved R-71. But the truly stunning statistic is that the rate of ballot measure approval increased between 1997 and 2009 in all but one county.”

Doubts for New Jersey marriage

This year’s gubernatorial race has likely decided the fate of New Jersey advocates’ push to offer full marriage equality.

Democratic Gov. John Corzine had promised to push through a marriage bill if re-elected, but Republican opponent Chris Christie, who said he’d oppose any attempt to expand marriage rights, defeated the incumbent at the polls, winning by 49 percent to 44 percent with a 100,000 vote lead.

Despite the defeat, New Jersey advocates still want a vote on a marriage equality bill. The day after the election, the statewide LGBT advocacy group Garden State Equality launched a new advertising campaign urging voters to write, call and visit their state representatives. If voted on during the lameduck session, Corzine could sign the bill into law before the anti-gay Christie takes the state’s helm.

Kalamazoo keeps protections

As in Maine, voters in Kalamazoo, Mich., also cast their votes on whether to keep or rescind new LGBT protections. Citizens there voted 7,671 to 4,731 to keep sexual orientation and gender-identity protections in employment, housing and public accommodations passed by the city council earlier this year

“There’s a lot of people who will wake up and breathe easier tomorrow knowing they won’t be fired or kicked out of their homes for being gay, lesbian or transgender,” One Kalamazoo Director Jon Hoadley told The Kalamazoo Gazette. “It was astounding the overwhelming support that we had. Kalamazoo said this is what it wants.”.

The city is the 16th in the state to adopt such a wide-ranging LGBT rights ordinance.

Gay officials win

Several openly gay and lesbian candidates were elected to local boards and councils, while others moved closer to victory and will face run-offs at a later date. Gay blog Bilerico.com “live blogged” results for these races and others on election night:

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Akron, Ohio — Sandra Kurt was elected the city’s first openly lesbian councilwoman.

Canton, Ohio — Eric Resnick won his race for the Canton Board of Education. He is the area’s first openly gay elected official.

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Openly gay Town Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor. [Ed. Note — See our story online at www.q-notes.com/4182/.]

Detroit — Charles Pugh won his race for council and came in first. He’ll become the first openly gay member of the Detroit City Council and council president.

Georgia — Lesbian Simone Bell received 24 percent of the vote in her race against Asha F. Jackson for House District 58. Bell and Jackson will compete again in a run-off.

Houston — Openly lesbian Annise Parker led among a field of three candidates for mayor. She will face a run-off election with Gene Locke.

Kalamazoo, Mich. — Terry Kuseske, Kalamazoo’s first openly gay candidate, was elected to the city commission.

Maplewood, Minn. — James Llanas was elected the city’s first openly gay councilman.

Salt Lake City, Utah — Stan Penfold was elected the city’s first openly gay city councilman.

St. Petersburg, Fla. — Steve Kornell was elected the city’s first openly gay councilman.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.