Progressives are celebrating the string of four successes in marriage ballots last Tuesday, but if you dig deeper, the news is even better. In several key state governments, the level where many LGBT and women's rights issues are determined, the sky got significantly bluer and/or conservative initiatives flopped. Drill down into all the analysis of America's changing demographics, and you see the ground level results around the country.
The overall picture: Where members of either the state's house or senate were on the 2012 ballot, Democrats went from control in 32 chambers to control in 37. California went from blue to super-blue, controlling all state-wide offices and a super-majority in one, maybe both chambers. A right wing effort to replace three moderate Florida Supreme Court justices with conservatives failed, as did constitutional amendments to ban public funding for abortions and allow public funding for religious organizations. More particulars:
In Minnesota, Dems seized control in both chambers. With an incumbent Democratic governor, Minnesota can move back to its progressive heritage. George Will had predicted that the presence of the marriage question on the ballot there would tip the state to Romney. Turns out that was so 2004. In Colorado, Dems flipped the House, which promptly elected an openly gay speaker, so that Colorado also now has Dems in control of both chambers and a Democratic governor. A pre-election Denver Post poll found that 68% of voters favored either marriage or civil unions for gay couples. There will be a civil unions bill soon, and probably marriage within five years.
In Maryland, the big story was African-American support for marriage equality.
In New Hampshire and Iowa, efforts to roll back gay marriage were defeated. New Hampshire elected a Democratic governor, who promised to veto any legislature to overturn the marriage law, thus effectively turning out the lights on any such attempts in the future. In Iowa, Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins won his retention vote and the State Senate remained in Democratic hands, thus achieving the same result as in New Hampshire. The weekend before the election, Brian Brown, the head of National Organization for Marriage, told Buzzfeed:
We’re going into Iowa. Why are we spending all these resources in Iowa. We’ve never hidden it. We want to defeat the judges, and we want to have a constitutional amendment. And, guess what? Mike Gronstal is about to lose. He’s not going to be Senate leader. And we’re going to get a vote in Iowa. And the whole notion that we’re somehow in a containment mode will be done. We’re going into Iowa, we’re gonna get a vote, and we’re gonna win the vote.
Rhode Island is the New England outlier because it is the only state in the region not to have legalized gay marriage, but that may change soon. Marriage equality supporters picked up seats in the State Senate, and the openly gay Speaker of the House has declared that he will seek a vote in January. The Senate President remains a major obstacle, however.
Is there bad news? Sure. Oklahoma amended its constitution to prohibit most affirmative action policies. Michele Bachmann won re-election in Minnesota, though barely. Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has become Chief Justice again, but says he won't bring a Biblical monument with him this time. California voters approved Prop 35, a misguided anti-trafficking measure.
But as results go, I'll take these.