Not only the first black president of the United States of America, last Tuesday Barack Obama also became its first president to specifically acknowledge gays in an acceptance speech, thanking Americans both straight and gay.
Four major pieces of pro-gay legislation should be passed within Obama’s first term.
First will be the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which will protect gays from hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace for the first time at a federal level. With a Democratic majority in both houses, transgendered protections removed from ENDA before the election will most likely be reinserted.
Later should come bills to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy responsible for the sacking of over twelve thousand gay military personnel over the last 15 years, and the Defense of Marriage Act that bans any kind of recognition of same-sex couples at a federal level.
The Democrats’ big win has also increased the number of openly gay members of the US congress with re-elected Democratic veterans Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin being joined by Jared Polis, a 33 year old internet millionaire from Colorado. A fourth may be possible if lesbian Deb Mill is chosen by the Democrats to fill a Congressional vacancy left by the promotion of Obama’s new chief of staff.
But it wasn’t all good news, with a ballot proposition banning newly legalised same-sex marriage in California passing there. A raft of court challenges is already underway, including suits by the City of San Francisco and the American Civil Liberties Union.
If any of these are successful and the ban overturned, gay marriage would remain legal until the next election -” which should be long enough to change public attitudes.
Despite winning the vote and spending nearly $40 million, the anti-gay marriage camp saw support for their cause drop nine points since California first voted on same-sex marriage eight years ago. Then it was 61 percent opposed -” now it’s only 52. If that trend continues, a majority of Californians could be pro-gay marriage in as little as three years.
And marriage rights campaigners now know where they have to focus their efforts after 70 percent of African American voters (more than any other group) voted for the ban.
Similar bans also passed in Florida and Arizona, while in Arkansas another initiative has banned adoption and fostering by both same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexuals.
But it’s not all bad news on the marriage front. On the back of strong Democrat showings at state elections, as many as five other states are likely to pass their own same-sex marriage laws in the next three years -” New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maryland and Rhode Island.
California-style court challenges are likely in others and same-sex marriage is also now safe in Connecticut after a vote there.
And the more same-sex marriage spreads across America, the greater the pressure will be for its legalisation here.