Youth, LGBT Equality & the 2012 Election

LGBT flag waving

This week’s election was historic for LGBT equality. And LGBT youth are growing up in a world that seemed unimaginable not long ago.

Here are some of the highlights:

•  Though opponents of marriage equality yet again attempted to stoke fear in parents about what their children might learn in school if same-sex marriage were approved, their misleading scare tactics failed. Voters in three states (Maine, Maryland, and Washington) voted to approve marriage equality; and voters in a fourth state (Minnesota) rejected a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, making marriage equality more likely in Minnesota in the future. The world can only be a brighter place for LGBT youth and their allies when they see that the movement to advance equality and inclusion is gaining ground not only in courtrooms and legislatures, but at the ballot box as well. And don’t let anyone tell you that your civil equality is simply the work of “activist” judges: In two-thirds of the states that have approved marriage equality, the change came through the democratic process, either by popular vote or by the vote of a democratically elected legislature.

•  LGBT youth have new role models in Congress and other parts of government. The United States Senate will welcome its first openly gay member, Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. The House of Representatives will welcome new openly gay members as well, including  Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Mark Takono of California, and possibly (depending on the ongoing vote count) Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Voters also re-elected openly gay members of Congress from Rhode Island (David Cicilline) and Colorado (Jared Polis). (Representative Polis is a key sponsor of the LGBT-inclusive Student Non-Discrimination Act.) Other successful LGBT candidates across the country include Kate Brown, for Oregon Secretary of State;  Stephen Skinner, who will be the first openly gay member of West Virginia’s legislature; Joshua Boschee, who will be the first openly gay member of North Dakota’s legislature; twenty-one-year-old Justin Chenette, who will join Maine’s legislature and become the youngest openly LGBT elected official in the country; and Joe Saunder, who will join the Florida legislature. Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, whom anti-gay organizations sought to remove from the court because of his vote for marriage equality in a 2009 case, survived a retention vote and will remain on the bench. To learn of even more LGBT-candidate success stories, check out this Huffington Post story or visit the Victory Fund’s website.

•  With the re-election of President Obama, his Administration can continue its crucial, unprecedented work on behalf of LGBT youth, including work on behalf of those who face discrimination and harassment in schools. The Administration’s efforts on this front, which I highlighted in more detail in an earlier post, include LGBT-inclusive legal action by the Department of Justice and LGBT-inclusive legal guidance issued by the Department of Education.