Even with a little more distance from last week’s election, it’s still painful.
With the Democrats’ “shellacking,” it looks like the LGBT community will need to work even harder to regain the progress that had been made.
Close to home, the hardest losses were the defeat of U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-8th Dist.) and Joe Sestak, who was vying to fill Sen. Arlen Specter’s seat; gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato and Fern Kaufman, attempting to oust longtime state Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-26th Dist.).
Murphy and Sestak had both been allies of the LGBT community while in Congress and, as veterans themselves, had been strong voices in the effort to repeal the military ban on openly gay servicemembers.
Kaufman was the only openly LGBT candidate in the Pennsylvania races, and she would have been the first out legislator in the commonwealth. The lack of LGBT representation resonates: Though having allies speak for you is good, it’s always more effective to speak with your own voice.
In the governor’s race, PGN attempted to speak with both Tom Corbett and Onorato; Corbett’s campaign ignored our request. (Although Lt. Gov.-elect Jim Cawley’s campaign had indicated he would speak with us, but then didn’t return our calls to schedule an interview.) Both Onorato and his running mate, Scott Conklin, took the time to speak with us. They might not have had the best positions on LGBT issues, but at least they had enough respect for the community to give interviews.
At the state level, the Democratic losses will stall LGBT progress, but perhaps not by much. In this session, civil-union, LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes legislation had been introduced in the House, but hadn’t passed there. In the Senate, there had been both a bill providing for same-sex marriage and hate-crimes protections, as well as a bill to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman. With the Republicans maintaining the majority in the Senate, the outlook there is unchanged.
What the LGBT community needs to be vigilant against now are new attempts to limit rights at the state level.
Remember, it was as recent as 2006 that both the House and Senate passed a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to one man and one woman; because the language of the two bills was different, it ultimately failed.
At the national level, Congress has the opportunity to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the last two months of this session. Though President Obama supports repealing the military ban on openly gay servicemembers, the legislation didn’t get much traction during the election, likely due to legislators’ concern that their support might cost them the election. Now that the election is over, those who might have been on the fence can take action without worrying about the political consequences. Or perhaps they have already faced the political consequences of their earlier inaction.