LGBT history will recall the election of 2012 as a critical turning point in the quest for equality. Broader history will remember Nov. 6 for proving definitively that the close association of the Republican Party with the tea party and the Christian right is politically lethal.
Evangelical tea party candidates clearly cost Republicans control of the U.S. Senate for the second election cycle in a row. All the tea party candidates who shared their shocking views about rape lost their races. They also shifted attention away from issues on which the Democrats were vulnerable, instead bringing visibility to the GOP’s goal of criminalizing abortion in all circumstances, including rape, incest and the life of the mother.
President Barack Obama’s considerable advantage among women had been shrinking in the weeks leading up to the election. An AP poll released on Oct. 25 showed a virtual tie between Romney and Obama among women voters.
But that was before reports hit the media of yet another Republican Senate candidate opining on rape: Richard Mourdock of Indiana described pregnancies resulting from rape as God’s will. That revelation also hurt Josh Mandel, R-Ohio, who refused to disagree with him. On Election Day, the president took the women’s vote 55-44 percent, and among single women he led 67-31 percent.
At the same time, a record number of women won U.S. Senate races, including Wisconsin’s openly gay Tammy Baldwin. And Florida voters soundly defeated an anti-choice amendment.
It’s been an axiom that the gay rights movement is linked inextricably to feminism, and this election was no exception. With the help of a supportive female electorate, 2012 was a watershed year for LGBT rights.
Women played a significant role in reversing the success of anti-gay efforts at the polls. Up until this election, marriage equality advocates suffered an eight-year string of defeats in 31 states. But this year, three states – Maryland, Maine and Washington – voted to allow same-sex couples to marry, and Minnesota voted down a constitutional gay marriage ban.
In all four states, the majority of male voters opposed the pro-gay position, but women’s support ranged from 55 percent in Maryland to 61 percent in Maine.
Gay and lesbian voters also played an important role in all of these victories, as well as in the presidential race. Angered by homophobic positions in the Republican platform and buoyed by Obama’s support for marriage equality, LGBT voters flocked to the polls to vote Democratic. An analysis of exit polls by the Human Rights Campaign showed that LGB voters were responsible for nearly half of the president’s victory margin.
In 2008, gays comprised 4 percent of the electorate, but this year that number rose to 5 percent. In 2008, Sen. John McCain won 27 percent of the gay vote, but Mitt Romney garnered only 23 percent of this year’s larger gay vote.
Seven out gays – a record number – were elected to the next Congress, including Baldwin and Mark Pocan of Madison, who won the seat she is leaving. Pocan will be the first gay member of Congress to succeed another.
All of this proves that a new political era has dawned. Extremist Christian views against women and gays were winning distractions for Republicans during the Bush era. Today, they’re a certain path to defeat.