WASHINGTON – The initial results of Election Day indicate new challenges as well as some opportunities ahead for moving forward on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, said the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization. The loss of the House of Representatives to an anti-equality leadership, along with the loss of some fair-minded Senators, will certainly impede federal legislative efforts. Perhaps most strikingly though, candidates who were the most vociferous opponents of LGBT equality did not fare well against fair-minded candidates.
“Social justice movements always experience steps forward and steps back and this election turned out to be a mix of both,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Even though we will face greater challenges in moving federal legislation forward, nothing will stop us from using every tool to advance LGBT equality at every level. Attempts to hold back the tide of the equality movement will surely put anti-LGBT leaders on the wrong side of history.”
The loss of the House to anti-equality leaders is a serious blow to the LGBT community. The presumptive leadership team of Reps. Boehner, Cantor and Pence all score zeros on the HRC scorecard and many soon-to-be committee chairs have long anti-LGBT records. The past four years of Democratic leadership stopped anti-equality lawmakers from being able to move the most damaging legislation and amendments forward, however, the 110th and 111th Congresses did not hold pro-equality majorities on every issue. The 112th Congress will prove even more challenging in rounding up the votes needed to advance pro-LGBT legislation. A particular disappointment is the loss of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal champion Patrick Murphy in the U.S. House.
“We will be prepared to fight attempts to turn back the clock on equality as well as highlight how far this new leadership is outside the mainstream of public opinion,” said Solmonese. “We need not look any further than their decade of House control that brought us attempts to pass a federal marriage amendment, strip courts of jurisdiction to hear LGBT rights claims, cut HIV/AIDS funding and vilify openly LGBT appointees.”
In assessing the impact of LGBT issues on the election, most races were primarily focused on economic woes creating a difficult environment for incumbents. Polls show that LGBT issues were not decisive in these losses, and in fact, anti-LGBT candidates did not fare well – particularly the efforts of the National Organization for Marriage that poured millions of dollars into this election with only a mixed bag to show for it. Their effort to unseat New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch was fruitless, as was their full throated support for Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman in California, as well as Carl Paladino in New York. Additionally, a record number of openly LGBT candidates won elections across the country including Rep.-elect David Cicilline as a new openly gay member of Congress.
“No doubt anti-equality forces will try to trumpet this election as a validation for their divisive politics, but nothing could be further from the truth,” said Solmonese. “The victories of Mark Dayton over rabidly anti-gay Tom Emmer and Lincoln Chafee over NOM-endorsed John Robitaille clearly demonstrate voters choosing equality over extremism.”
The outlook in the states remains more hopeful for moving LGBT issues forward. In New York voters chose marriage equality supporter Andrew Cuomo along several new state senators who support equal marriage. In Minnesota, voters rejected Tom Emmer and instead chose Mark Dayton who has pledged to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law. In other states like Maryland, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Colorado, the coming year may see additional opportunities to advance relationship recognition laws.
HRC committed significant resources to the 2010 elections including contributing more than $850,000 through HRC’s federal PAC to pro-equality Congressional candidates and political committees as well as contributing nearly $400,000 to support pro-equality state and local candidates. HRC deployed 39 staff to 17 states to work for pro-equality candidates and mobilize HRC members. The organization sent more than 3.3 million election-related action alert e-mails to HRC members and supporters, recruited more than 4,500 volunteers to support pro-equality candidates and made more than 85,000 phone calls to HRC members through staff in the field and weekly phone banks at HRC headquarters.
HRC endorsed 202 candidates for the U.S House of Representatives, 21 candidates for the U.S. Senate and 16 candidates for Governor. Of the 164 races where a winner has been called, 80% of HRC endorsed candidates have won.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.