Tammy Baldwin: Why Her Victory Underlined a Big Night For LGBT Equality on Election Day
The historic reelection of President Barack Obama on Tuesday night ensures that the next four years will be as progressive as the last four, if not more so. Civil rights have been achieved for equal pay for women, access to education for minorities, and a promise for national same-sex marriage. Obama's victory is a victory for all Americans, gay or straight, red or blue, because within the next four years, the fight for marriage equality will finally be put to rest.
President Obama has already been the first president to be so receptive to LGBTQ issues and a proponent of equal rights. He repealed the 1993 policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in order to allow openly gay members of the military to serve the countryfreely and safely. He also signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The biggest support he has shown to date is his declaration of support for same sex-marriage in May 2012. Obama's previous position was that same-sex couples should have unions that hold the same benefits as a heterosexual marriage, including hospital visitation rights and tax deductions.
Tuesday was a major victory for gay rights with the passage of three referenda in Maine, Minnesota, and Washington state. Maine and Washington voters legalized same-sex marriage, and in Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. A total of nine states now approve of same-sex marriage while another twelve recognize marriages conducted in other states and instead have same-sex unions. The election of Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) to the Senate as the first openly gay member of the Senate also proved that the country is moving distinctively to the left in supporting same-sex marriages, as well as LGBTQ rights.
The next steps toward marriage equality and total equality for LGBTQ citizens to conclude the greatest civil rights movement since the 1960s are within reach. Obama must repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and finally legalize same-sex marriage nationally to ensure that all marriages are recognized anywhere in the country and all rights are respected. President Obama will use the second term to finish what he started in the first: equality for all Americans and respect for all love.