Saturday, 18 September 2010

Primary Elections Advance Marriage Equality

In Tuesday’s primary elections (just as in earlier primaries), some clear advances were recorded towards LGBT equality – notably in New York and Maryland, but also elsewhere. Why does this matter to me? I am not a New Yorker, or even American, but a South African now living in Europe.  These successes area important to the queer community everywhere, as part of a much broader pattern that will transform our political landscapes everywhere – the advancing global acceptance of a new understanding of family. This is a theme I will be expanding on for a broader post later today, but first I need to present the evidence – which I do by starting with the primaries in New York and Maryland
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In principle, the Empire State should be one of the most supportive of marriage equality.Polls consistently show the voters in favour, the present governor, both senators and New York mayor are strong supporters, and the state legislature has twice voted to introduce enabling legislation.:Only the state senate voted against. In a scandalous episode last year, three Democratic senators conspired with Republicans to temporarily control the Senate and prevent equality even reaching a vote.   When Democrat control was regained and the vote taken, eight Democrats voted against. A year later,  two of the original three conspirators (Espada and Monserate) have been booted from the senate, and one of those voting against equality (Stachowski) has been denied re-election after being deliberated targeted by the Human Rights Campaign and Fight Back New York. Some marriage foes remain (notably Reuben Diaz and Sheila Huntley), but they too had to endure bruising primaries. The lessons will not be lost on the remaining Democratic senators.
On the other side of the house, some of the Republicans face strong Democratic challenges. It is too early to say what will happen in November, but with the widespread evidence that previously solid GOP opposition to gay marriage is breaking up, it is  likely that when the vote comes up next year (as it will), there will be enough Republican senators to compensate for Espada and  Huntley and any other Dem renegades - which is exactly what happened (twice) in the lower house vote.
In Maryland, marriage legislation has not previously made it to a vote. That is likely to change next year, with a record number of seven openly gay or lesbian legislators having won their primaries on safe Democratic districts. I expect a bill for either full marriage or a civil union compromise to make it through committee for the first time. In a Dem controlled legislature, it will pass. When it does, Governor O'Malley has promised to set aside his personal reservations and sign. The one danger is that he might not survive his own election (although he should do so).
Elsewhere, openly LGBT candidates are also continuing to win elections, as they have been doing at an accelerating rate all year. Gay Politics reports that
In all, 29 of the Victory Fund’s 33 openly LGBT candidates with primaries Tuesday night advanced, and many of those have only token opposition this fall.
Although it is impossible to quantify, the chances are that there have also been more straight allies elected - and that genuinely neutral politician will have noted the signs of growing support for equality, and the erosion of opposition. At all levels of government, in many jurisdictions across the USA, the political landscape next year will become more supportive, and the legislative outlook more favourable for marriage and family equality.

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