- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The midterm election was a mixed bag for gay rights advocates as voters elected four new gay-friendly governors but threw out the House’s Democratic majority, same-sex supporters in Maine and three Iowa judges who legalized gay marriage.

“Social justice movements always experience steps forward and steps back, and this election turned out to be a mix of both,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

The HRC and its allies lamented the loss of House Democrats, especially Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, Pennsylvania Democrat, who was championing a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy on gays.

But gay advocates cheered the election of four gubernatorial candidates: Jerry Brown in California, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Mr. Chafee is an independent; the others are Democrats. All are likely to sign gay-marriage bills — and all are likely to have the chance to do so.

For supporters of traditional marriage, the new Republican majority is unlikely to advance gay policies.

But the most direct “win” for the traditional-marriage supporters was the solid 55-45 rejection of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who legalized gay marriage in April 2009.

Seventy-four judges were up for retention, and only three were not retained, so the people’s vote “was very deliberate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, state chairman of Iowa for Freedom. His organization had toured Iowa, arguing that the state’s high court “became activist” when it voided the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), legalized gay marriage and ordered all counties to comply with it.

Before Tuesday’s election, Iowans hadn’t had an opportunity to speak on gay marriage, said Danny Carroll, chairman of the board of the Iowa Family Policy Center Action. So when the people had a chance to say whether three of the seven justices — Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker and Justice Michael Streit — should be retained, they spoke, convincingly, he said.

“Activist judges everywhere have been put on notice,” added Gary Bauer, chairman of Campaign for Working Families, which supported the no-retention campaign.

In Maine, voters pushed back on gay issues, too, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council Action.

In 2009, after Maine voters vetoed a gay-marriage law, traditional-values supporters began recruiting candidates to replace same-sex supporters in the legislature. On Tuesday night, 22 of the traditional-values candidates won, Mr. Perkins said.

The message to politicians and judges is that “there is a political price to pay” for imposing a homosexual agenda on people without their consent, Mr. Perkins said.

Meanwhile, gay rights supporters are delighted with their new opportunities in four states.

“The impact of this election is monumental,” said Patrick Smock, chairman of Marriage Equality Rhode Island PAC, of Mr. Chafee’s victory over his Democratic and Republican opponents.

Mr. Chafee supports gay marriage — “Once you acknowledge that homosexuality exists not by choice, the next obvious step is to grant gays and lesbians the same liberties and freedoms as every other American,” he said on Huffington Post in June 2009 — and Rhode Island lawmakers are expected to introduce a new gay-marriage bill in 2011, as they have done every year since 1997.

New York lawmakers have supported gay marriage in the past, and Mr. Cuomo has said several times he wants to be the governor who finally signs it into law.

In California, a voter-passed amendment that disallows same-sex marriages is in a court challenge. Mr. Brown refused to defend Proposition 8 as state attorney general and, as “the first governor of California who truly supports the full equality of every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person in this state,” according to Equality California PACS, he will not support it as governor.

Finally, in Hawaii, Mr. Abercrombie’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, vetoed a civil-union bill this year, saying it was “essentially marriage by another name.”

Mr. Abercrombie has said he would sign such a bill if it comes to his desk.

With such a “growing dream team in place,” there will be a renewed push to win gay marriage in more states in 2011, plus a fight to repeal the federal DOMA, Evan Wolfson, director and founder of Freedom to Marry, predicted Tuesday.

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