Barack Obama may have been the victor in Tuesday’s US presidential election, but the real winners were undoubtedly the country’s gay and lesbian community.
Three ballot measures on marriage equality presented to voters in the states of Maryland, Maine and Washington were approved – the first time gay marriage has been put to a popular vote in the country and won.
Another ballot measure which asked voters in the state of Minnesota to approve a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was defeated.
The wins were in stark contrast to the success of the Proposition 8 ballot measure in California four years ago, which halted same-sex marriages in the US’s most populous state.
Maine had also rejected a referendum on marriage equality just three years ago.
The trio of states now join six others in allowing same-sex marriage, including Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) has also legalised gay marriage, while the state of Rhode Island recognises married same-sex couples from other states.
The approval by voters was a crushing defeat for conservative religious groups such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). NOM contributed a record amount to the campaigns (more than US$5.5 million) and earlier this week, the organisation’s president, Brian Brown, discredited polling which indicated increasing support for gay nuptials, only conceding there might be some losses when voters went to the polls.
“This makes clear that the people of this country know that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and all this talk about somehow the country turning is absolutely false, and that protecting marriage is a winning issue. If we lose one, that would still be the same,” he told Buzzfeed.
“It becomes harder if it’s two, three or four, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Conservative groups also failed in their bid to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who they had targeted for his ruling to strike down a ban on gay marriage in 2009.
In yet another historic victory for the country’s gay and lesbian population, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the US Senate.
“Now, I’m well aware that I will have the honour to be the first woman senator from Wisconsin and I’m well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate,” Baldwin said in her acceptance speech.
“I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”
There are reported to be up to 118 other LGBT-identifying candidates who won office at various levels of government and the judiciary.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is attributing at least some of the credit for the community’s massive victories to the US president, who announced his support for gay marriage in May.
“Visibility and progress for LGBT people have grown under President Obama and now that momentum must continue,” GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said.
“LGBT people deserve full equality in every aspect of American life and President Obama, in his second term, should take every concrete step within his power to make it so.”
To a lesser degree, one of the other big LGBT winners from the decisive electoral result was gay New York Times blogger and statistician Nate Silver.
Silver founded FiveThirthyEight.com, a site that correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential race in 49 of 50 states in 2008 and the winner of 35 Senate races.
Silver had suffered a barrage of criticism from conservative political pundits and Republicans for consistently projecting an Obama win. Many labeled his projections partisan, despite Silver’s insistence his statistical method – which combined mostly polling figures and economic data – was sound.
Silver gave Obama a 91 percent chance of winning on election day, and has now correctly forecast each state’s outcome . He had been forecasting an Obama victory for the entire election cycle.
The prognosticator has seen an 850 percent spike in his book sales since the election was decided.