Tuesday's election was historic not because of who was or was not elected president — however important that contest may have been — but because it showed that our nation has crossed a threshold in accepting LGBTQ people as equals. I am thrilled.
Consider the results:
- Voters approved of same-sex marriage in Maryland, Washington, and Maine. Maine had rejected it just a few years ago.
- Minnesota voters said no to a measure that would have amended its state constitution to define “marriage” as heterosexual unions between a man and a woman. Voters in 30 states had approved such measures in previous elections, making it possible for conservative activists to claim that every time such a measure had been sent directly to the American people, the American people had voted down gay marriage. That's not the case any more.
- In neighboring Wisconsin, a lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, became the nation's first openly gay Senator. Moreover, as one commentator put it, “her sexual orientation was largely a non-issue in the race.”
- In Iowa, voters did not unseat a judge who had been part of the seven-member state Supreme Court that had unanimously upheld same-sex marriage in 2007. According to the New York Times, two other judges who had found in favor of gay marriage had been kicked off the bench by angry Iowa conservatives in 2010. This year's election was a different story.
- Voters re-elected for president a man who announced earlier this year that he had changed his mind about same-sex marriage, and that he now supports full marriage equality.
Clearly, President Obama is not the only American who has changed his mind. The Huffington Post quotes Bishop Gene Robinson's excitement for the change in the nation's mood:
“This is a real national moment. It shows that America is ready for the mainstreaming of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
I'm not saying that our nation has achieved anything like full equality for LGBTQ people. But I'm encouraged by the fact that the tide seems to have palbably shifted.
The signs are not just political. On Saturday night at my husband's high school reunion in red-state Kentucky, we were both glad to see that no one batted an eyelash about a gay couple appearing there as a couple. Even though his friend Brian had not been out in adolescence, nobody seemed surprised to learn he was gay. Everyone had gotten used to the notion of gay couples and appeared more concerned with the really important questions, like who had gotten fat since high school.
There's no doubt that conservatives will continue to hammer the issue of homosexuality, but it seems their fearmongering is falling on deaf ears as Americans realize that those states that have already adopted same-sex marriage haven't yet fallen into the sea. All of the worries that the presence of same sex marriage in a state would somehow “ruin” or “damage” the sanctity of heterosexual marriage have not come true.
Conservatives will also continue to speak about the “gay agenda,” a terrifying specter of homosexual infiltration into the American mainstream.
And in this case, I agree with their language. There is such a thing as a gay agenda. It is an agenda that aims for all Americans to be judged by their actions and by the content of their character, not by their choice of dates to the high school reunion.
On Tuesday, that agenda became quite a bit more real.