Because I did some work on the 3 LGBT-specific ballot initiative campaigns last November in Maine, Washington State, and Kalamazoo, MI, some of my friends and colleagues have been asking what's on the ballot this fall that directly impacts LGBT people. I checked around and fortunately, there's little in the way of domestic partnership ordinances, constitutional amendments, non-discrimination ordinances, and so forth (with the exception of this inclusive non-discrmination ordinance in Bowling Green, OH).
But I've been meaning to do a piece on what is at stake, because there is a lot in terms of candidates that affect the trajectory of LGBT rights. There are multiple important contests, but from where I stand, key races include:
- Steve Pougnet, the Mayor of Palm Springs, California, who besides being a strong progressive, would be the first openly gay married dad elected to Congress (he and his partner have two adorable young children). He's also running against the odious Mary Bono Mack, whose veneer of moderation was finally shredded by her vote against DADT repeal, refusal to take a stance on Prop 8, refusal to co-sponsor or commit to voting for repeal of DOMA and passage of ENDA. More on Pougnet and that race can be found via this tag at my home blog, OpenLeft.com.
- Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer, who as I've written about here and here at C&L, were one of just 14 Senators to oppose DOMA and are outspoken advocates on LGBT rights generally, going back to Boxer's work on HIV/AIDS funding in the early 1980s when few in Congress would touch what was then called "gay cancer".
- New York State Senate races, where in my home state we fell 8 votes short of enshrining equality for same-sex couples last winter. Among the 8 "no" votes, two have fallen in Democratic primaries to pro-equality Assemblymen, and there are multiple other general election races coming up where we would pick up pro-equality votes or defend them. My colleague Paul at Gay City News has a great summary here.
- Iowa, where 3 judges who ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples are on the ballot. National Organization for Marriage is launching a bus tour and has dumped millions into defeating them to send a message. One Iowa is doing key work on this race.
- Five gubernatorial races, the first being in California, as the winner there may serious impact in terms of whether the case has "standing" at the 9th Circuit- an issue that could bring the whole case down. The other three are states where it is very likely that equality supporters have the votes to enact major legislation- the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Rhode Island and Minnesota, and the recently-vetoed civil unions law in Hawaii. The latter two are where especially strong progressives Mark Dayton and Neil Abercrombie are the Democratic nominees. Last, Maine is important, where Libby Mitchell is the Democratic nominee and the opponent most likely to win if anyone but her does is terrible on LGBT equality. Since a new marriage bill would need to re-pass the Legislature and either be signed or not vetoed in light of last November's election, Libby's race is crucial.
- And finally is Kamala Harris (who I especially want to highlight), who is running for Attorney General of California and, along with Eric Schneiderman in my home state of New York, is one of two extremely strong, die-hard progressive Attorney General candidates to run this year.
Aside from hearing excellent things about Kamala from folks I trust over at Calitics and in various California progressive circles, I first was introduced to and wrote about Kamala over at Prop 8 Trial Tracker, a blog I sometimes guest on, when she and Stephanie Miller appeared in a CNN debate on same-sex marriage around the Prop 8 decision news (videos can be found in this post). What impressed me so much is how Kamala gets it as a straight ally- understands how to talk about equality, fundamental fairness, and what the law really says. She came at it like a seasoned pro who had been doing LGBT advocacy for years. There are a million people who could have taken her spot in that debate, and there are few I would have traded for Kamala.
Brave New Films, in partnership with PowerPAC, put together this great video below summarizing Kamala's commitment to equality and why her race is so important. Check it out.
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Cross-posted at my home blog, OpenLeft.com