UPDATE: Since we’ve written this blog, Arizona’s Congressional race was called, with Kyrsten Sinema becoming our country’s first bisexual congressperson. She also a vocal feminist and is the only self-declared non-theist in Congress.
We also learned that Mark Takanos has become the first gay person of color in Congress.
Days later, we’re still reeling over all the good news! The 2012 Election brought us so many good things. We’re still feeling all warm and fuzzy about it.
Women turned out in huge numbers (more than men, as per usual) and our votes were a decisive factor in races all over the country — the gender gap is alive and well. Women’s votes actually decided the Presidential election, with Barack Obama winning a whopping 55% of women’s votes and 45% of men’s votes (that 10% gender gap slid him comfortably into victory lane).
We got sweeping victories for marriage equality in Washington, Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine (thanks to HUGE gender and age gaps — women and young people overwhelmingly voted in support of marriage equality)! Did you know that Americans have voted on (and REJECTED) marriage equality 32 times before this week? This was the first time ever in the history of this country that Americans voted in FAVOR of gay rights at the polls instead of voting to restrict gay rights. That’s a big deal! Well done, America!
Also, recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington and Colorado, and medicinal marijuana use was legalized in Massachusetts. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of the end of the drug wars. We also DEFEATED the anti-abortion Amendment 6 in Florida, we passed the DREAM Act in Maryland, AND we finally repealed the horrifying three-strikes law in California.
When it came to vocally misogynistic politicians, women found a way to “shut that whole thing down” this year…with their votes. Across the board, politicians who exposed the appalling anti-woman views behind their anti-woman policies were rejected by voters on election day. The three biggest offenders of women – (as Feministing.com calls them) Todd “the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down” Akin, Richard “it’s something God intended” Mourdock, and Roger “some girls rape easy” Rivard – all lost Tuesday.
They all lost.
They. All. Lost.
AND, in kicking these chumps to the curb, we gained some real advocates for women and progressive issues, including Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin.
If ever there was a politician who represented the views expressed by Occupy Wall Street, its Elizabeth Warren. The populism and get-money-out-of-politics movement that’s surged over the last year has found a warrior in Warren, who has a record of speaking truth to [financial] power. Warren helped establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was the chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and ran an uncompromising senate campaign that called for financial regulation, economic reform, the protection of safety-net programs like Medicare and Social Security, cutting subsidies for Big Oil, defending universal health care, and promoting equal pay legislation. As the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts and a woman Wall Street loves to hate, Warren epitomizes standing up to big banks and working for economic equality. And despite the racist campaign launched against her by Sen. Scott Brown, Warren defeated him 53% to 47% Tuesday and gave an acceptance speech that gave us goosebumps.
Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, as well as Wisconsin’s first ever woman senator. Baldwin was the co-founder and co-chairwoman of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, introduced the ‘Buffet Rule’ in the House, voted against the invasion of Iraq and continues to speak out against the war in Afghanistan while standing up for women, seniors, and the working class. She has made it clear that she is a strong feminist politician, and someone who will fight for us and with us. Baldwin, like Warren, was the target of her opponent’s hateful campaign that questioned her “heartland values” with images of her dancing at a gay pride parade. Wisconsinites voted against this blatant homophobia, and elected a pretty rad woman. Baldwin’s sexual orientation hasn’t and shouldn’t define her political career…but her ability to be elected to one of the highest offices in the country is hugely significant for the LGBTQ community and for the future of this country. Here’s what Baldwin said about the significance of her sexual orientation to The Guardian:
“If you are not in the room, the conversation is about you. If you are in the room, the conversation is with you. We never had an openly LGBT member of the US Senate, and even though there are strong pro-equality allies who serve there, it has always been a conversation about a group of people. So this changes everything,” she said.
It could also change the landscape far beyond Washington, Baldwin said.
“I think in particular for young LGBT youth, especially those that come out in hostile communities or less supportive families and are thinking: ‘what about my future?’. They can wake up to a Tammy Baldwin victory on November 7 and feel the way I did when Geraldine Ferraro accepted the nomination.”
And the good news doesn’t end there.
Although the votes are still being counted in a tight race in Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema is in the lead against her challenger Vernon Parker. If she wins, she will not only be a vocally atheist feminist Congresswoman (which is all plenty to be excited about), but she’ll also be the first openly bisexual member of Congress.
Mazie Hirono became Hawaii’s first female Senator, the first ever Asian-American U.S. Senator and first Buddhist U.S. Senator! Her seat in the House was won by Tulsi Gabbard, America’s first Hindu Congresswoman. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs in combat, won an Illinois congressional seat against Tea Partier Joe Walsh.
AND, in addition to electing the nation’s first 100% female congressional delegation, New Hampshire also elected the nation’s first out trans lawmaker, Stacie Laughton! According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, voters have never before elected an out transgender person to a state legislature or to the U.S. Congress.
“I believe that at this point, the LGBT community will hopefully be inspired,” Laughton told a newspaper on Nov. 8. “My hope is that now maybe we’ll see more people in the community running, maybe for alderman. Maybe in the next election, we’ll have a senator.”
While we’re kind of obnoxiously ecstatic about all of these victories this week, it’s worth noting that in Alabama 60% of voters chose to KEEP racist Jim Crow provisions in their state constitution and that California rejected a ballot measure that would have eliminated the death penalty in the state. Shamefully, Montana also became the 38th state to require parental notification for women under 18 who choose to have an abortion.
Clearly, our victories on Tuesday are just the beginning – with a more diverse Congress, we have a greater chance at fighting the inequalities experienced by so many in this country. We’ll have an easier path with politicians like Warren and Baldwin supporting our grassroots movements to challenge economic exploitation and gender/racial oppression – but it’s still up to us to organize, mobilize, and fight! The fight doesn’t end on election day, it only begins. It’s up to us to hold our politicians accountable and keep pushing them forward.