By Marisa Benjamin
Boston University News Service
Members of BU’s LGBT community believe the nation-wide election results mark a watershed moment in the history of the United States gay rights movement. For the first time ever, voters have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage in three states.
“This is a big step forward for us because it reflects a slowly changing national sentiment,” said Jessica Gawrych, member of Boston University’s Queer Activist Collective “Q”.
In total, 32 states have had marriage equality initiatives on the ballot since the 90s, all of which failed to pass. Last night, marriage equality laws were affirmed in Washington, Maine and Maryland, and Minnesota voters voted against a constitutional amendment that would deny same-sex marriage.
In addition to marriage equality, the election results had a landmark of “firsts” for the nation’s LGBT community, signifying a shift of America’s views on gay issues.
Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin defeated former Wisconsin Senator Tommy Thompson, making her the first openly gay member of the Senate in the history of the United States.
“By being a member of the queer community, Tammy Baldwin will be a voice in the legislature that will point out and address issues that would otherwise be forgotten or unrecognized,” said Gawrych.
While President Obama’s 303 to 206 defeat over Republican candidate Mitt Romney was certainly a big win for the Democratic party, it was also a stride for marriage equality. The re-election of Obama will mark the first time a president openly supports gay marriage in office, a position he held since May when he announced his position on the issue had “evolved.”
“If Romney had won the presidency, we would have seen a renewed federal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents federal recognition of gay marriage,” said Gender and Sexuality Studies Professor Carrie Preston.
Professor Preston also said that if candidate Romney had won the election, he would have likely sought to overturn the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
It comes as no surprise LGBT issues have burst to the forefront of politics. In recent years, Americans’ opinions toward homosexual men and women have shifted. A June 6 poll by CNN indicated that 54% of Americans are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, up 10% from 2009.
Q’s president Illeana Tauscher believes last night’s achievements are the result of a new generation that is more open to homosexuality.
“I think the past decade or so has also seen a huge increase in the portrayal of gay people in media–many popular shows have gay characters and many celebrities and public figures are starting to come out,“ said Tauscher.
While the nation-wide results are a victory for the US gay rights movement, BU’s LGBT community hopes this will open the door for more progress in the future.
“Hopefully other elected officials will follow the lead of this election and take a stand to step forward in support of our rights,” said Gawrych.