Voters to America: We Choose Equality

Kara Suffredini, MassEquality Executive Director
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Kara Suffredini, MassEquality Executive Director

By: Kara Suffredini, Esq.– 

Election 2012 was about the direction of our country, and the welfare of LGBTQ people hung in the balance. Up and down the ballot, across America, voters had a clear choice on Nov. 6. The results are in: voters chose equality.

President Obama, the most pro-LGBTQ President in U.S. history, was soundly re-elected. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was elected the first openly gay U.S. Senator. Voters in Maine and Maryland approved marriage equality by popular vote for the first time in history, and Minnesota became the first state ever to reject by popular vote an amendment to the state constitution that would ban marriage equality. As I write this, Washington State is counting the final votes on a ballot measure that would approve marriage equality, and all signs indicate that when those results are called, marriage ballot measures will be four victories for four contests.

Closer to home, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Kennedy III, newcomers who offered some of the most thoughtful and comprehensive platforms  in support of LGBTQ equality this election season, won decisive victories for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, respectively. And all congressional incumbents facing reelection, all of whom are pro-LGBT, won their races.

America reached a tipping point on Nov. 6, and fast ending are the days of scapegoating LGBTQ people for political gain. Voters across America rejected scare tactics and, instead, embraced LGBTQ people and families into the American fabric. That rejection could not have been more clear than in the local races right here in Massachusetts.

By a 14-point margin, voters elected Josh Cutler to be the first pro-LGBTQ champion ever to serve the Sixth Plymouth House District.  In so doing, voters soundly rejected anti-transgender scare tactics. In the race’s final days, a despicable, anti-transgender mailer was disseminated throughout the district, clearly intended to scare voters into voting against equality.  It didn’t work.

Cutler’s historic win illustrates the larger trend in local races yesterday: equality wins. Of MassEquality’s 28 endorsed pro-LGBTQ champions this electoral cycle, 25 were victorious, with two defeating anti-LGBTQ incumbents, five elected to fill open seats, and 17 securing reelection. State Reps George Ross and Steven Levy, both of whom staunchly oppose LGBTQ equality and voted against the Transgender Equal Rights Law, were sent packing by voters in the Second Bristol District and the Fourth Middlesex District, respectively.

Replacing them will be Paul Heroux of Attleboro and former state rep Danielle Gregoire of Marlborough. MassEquality endorsed both candidates and made their election to office among our top priorities this election season. We did so not only because Heroux and Gregoire will be pro-LGBTQ champions, but also because the fringe politics of Ross and Levy, both of whom were backed by the ultra-conservative Massachusetts Independent PAC for Working Families, are so out of step with mainstream voters that they have no place in the Massachusetts Legislature.

Two years ago, when Ross and Levy each picked off pro-LGBTQ lawmakers (Ross defeated former State Rep. Bill Bowles and Levy knocked Gregoire out of office), MassEquality vowed that we would be back. In an open letter to the community, we wrote, “We need to know who our friends are, and we need to do the grinding, 24/7 work needed to get them elected.”

That’s what we’ve done.

Along with electing 27 State House champions, we also, for the first time, endorsed a Governor’s Council candidate, out lesbian Eileen Duff. Duff won handily, and will become the first ever openly gay member of the Governor’s Council, the statewide body that confirms judicial nominations. Never was the need for an LGBTQ voice at the decision-making table more clear than in 2011, when Governor’s Councillor Charles Cipollini (who lost his reelection bid on Nov. 6), attacked the impartiality and “family values” of widely respected Supreme Judicial Court Justice Barbara Lenk simply because she is a lesbian. We backed Duff because all elected offices, and the judicial officers they appoint, should be reflective of the diversity of the community they serve.

So what does this all mean for Nov. 7?

It means that the voters have spoken, and they have given their elected leaders a mandate. They want champions, all of the time, not just supporters when it’s convenient. They have confidence in the work that’s been done, and they want lawmakers to finish the job. We’ve enjoyed marriage equality for eight years in Massachusetts, and we have more to do to repeal the law that that keeps our marriages from counting in other states and in the eyes of the federal government. We’ve passed an historic milestone with the new Transgender Equal Rights Law, but we have more to do to protect transgender people from discrimination at restaurants, banks, gas stations and so many other places where we conduct so much of our daily lives. We have an historic anti-bullying law and a one-of-a-kind statewide GLBT youth commission, and we have more to do to protect LGBTQ students from bullying in schools, to support LGBTQ youth living on the streets because they were rejected by their families, and to ensure our LGBTQ elders can age proudly, openly, safely and free from discrimination.

It means that on Nov. 7, after only three hours of sleep, the MassEquality staff is back in the office. Because we’ve got more to do, we’ve got the pro-LGBTQ champions to do it, and we’re fired up and ready to get it done.

*Kara Suffredini, Esq. is the executive director of MassEquality.