Date: November 08 2012
CHICAGO: Not only did the conservative movement fail to win either the White House or the Senate on Tuesday night in America, voters in state referendums across the country rejected some of its key positions, particularly opposition to gay marriage and drug law reform.
Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to support gay marriage at the ballot, while in Minnesota voters rejected a proposal to alter the constitution to ban gay marriage.
Voters in Wisconsin elected the first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin, who said at her victory party: "I am well aware that I will have the honour to be Wisconsin's first woman US senator. And I am well aware I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate.
"But I didn't run to make history."
When these laws take effect, gay marriage will be legal in nine US states, a circumstance many would have found unthinkable four or eight years ago.
As recently as 2004 the Republican strategist Karl Rove prompted Republicans in key states to put up gay marriage bans in the federal election. The object was to anger the base and draw Christian conservatives and religious black voters out to the polls, and in so doing bolster the vote for George Bush jnr. It worked, and for a time some Republicans believed they could use fear of gay marriage to maintain a permanent majority.
The results across America on Tuesday night appear to put the notion to rest, particularly because Barack Obama made the issue part of the national debate, voicing his support for gay marriage early in the campaign, and repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" laws early in his term.
He touched on it in his victory speech, saying, "It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try."
Outside an early voting booth on Monday in Ohio, 35-year-old Ryan Beem, a pipefitter who had struggled to find work through the recession told Fairfax he had just cast a vote for the President in part because he supported the union movement, and in part because he supported gay marriage.
"My brother is a homosexual and I think he should have the same rights as me and my wife," he said.
Rights groups said the victories were an important sign that public opinion was shifting in their direction.
"We have made history for marriage equality by winning our first victory at the ballot box," said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, which raised millions of dollars for the measures in four states.
In another sign of shifting public attitudes, a drive by social conservatives in Iowa to unseat David Wiggins, one of seven State Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously in 2007 to legalise same-sex marriage, fell short. Only two years ago, three other justices who faced similar electoral challenges were voted out as conservatives, backed by out-of-state donations, argued that the court had overstepped its role.
Speaking on Tuesday night from a victory party in Portland, Maine, Matt McTighe, the campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said, "A lot of families in Maine just became more stable and secure."
Also on Tuesday nine states and localities voted for measures legalising or decriminalising marijuana, an outcome celebrated by the former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, a member of the non-partisan lobby group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
"I cannot tell you how happy I am that after 40 years of the racist, destructive exercise in futility that is the war on drugs, my home state of Washington has now put us on a different path," Mr Stamper said.
"There are people who have lost today: drug cartels, street gangs, those who profit from keeping American incarceration rates the highest in the world. For the rest of us, however, this is a win. It's a win for taxpayers. It's a win for police. It's a win for all those who care about social justice. This is indeed a wonderful day."
with The New York Times
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