When the president came out in support of marriage equality last spring, some critics deemed the move an opportunistic ploy in an election year — and others viewed it as forced, following Vice President Joe Biden’s unexpected announcement of support. Whatever the reason, this election showed that an endorsement of marriage equality is not a deathknell for a political campaign; if the president of the United States can be elected on a platform that includes marriage equality, candidates seeking office at all levels of government can no longer hide behind the excuse that supporting the LGBT community could be political suicide.
Apart from the presidential race, Tuesday was a banner night for marriage equality. For years, antigay activists have trumpeted the line that the American public has voted against marriage equality every time it’s been asked. The issue’s dismal 32-0 record was not just broken Tuesday, but smashed. Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington all approved their states’ pending same-sex marriage laws, and residents of Minnesota defeated an attempt to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
The resounding results will speak volumes for years to come. No longer can opponents enlist the over-generalized “American public” as allies in their campaign against equality. They must now come up with a new reason to justify their baseless discrimination, as the fight against marriage equality is no longer “what the people want.” The people — in not one, not two and not even three, but all four states where it was a question — have spoken, and they will not support discrimination.
Locally, Pennsylvania elected its first openly LGBT state lawmkaker in state Rep.-elect Brian Sims (D-182nd Dist.). While the three other out candidates for the Pennsylvania House were not successful, Sims’ election marks a turning point in Pennsylvania LGBT politics. The community now has a voice in Harrisburg, someone who will be working alongside legislators on issues important to all Pennsylvanians. Through that process, Sims will have the opportunity to — pointedly as well as subtly — make the case for LGBT equality.
Tuesday was a good night for Philadelphia, for Pennsylvania and for the nation. Now, it’s up to all those we put in office this week to move us even farther forward.