Election night storm watch

by on November 4, 2012  •  In Congress, Elections, Judiciary, Marriage, States

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It’s been less than a week since Sandy (and the nightmare continues for many), but Tuesday night could be another wild ride. With the presidential election still close, and control of the Senate hanging in the balance, it’s going to be a bumpy night until all the results are in.

For LGBT folks and allies, there at least five big races in addition to the the one at the top of the ticket: four states have voter referendum questions on gay marriage, and Wisconsin may elect the nation’s first openly gay U.S. Senator. In three of those states – Maine, Maryland and Washington – the ballot questions are whether to confirm a marriage equality bill already enacted by the legislature. If the results are positive, the new marriage laws will take effect on January 1, 2013.

There are also plenty of significant local races.  Here’s a guide by time zone to keep handy when you’re glued to the tube on Tuesday night.

East Coast time zone -

Maine (polls close 8 pm EST) – Mainers will vote on this language: “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?” Short and with a hopefully sweet result. 

Maryland (polls close 8 pm EST) – In Maryland, voters will be asked yes or no on whether to ratify legislation that

Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

New York (polls close 9 pm EST) (US House  NY-18) – Openly gay Sean Patrick Maloney (hope the district is heavily Irish) is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Nan Hayworth. (Hey – who said a Republican could use that first name?)

And a New York coda to a case that Bill Rubenstein and I litigated for the ACLU: In Assembly District 61 (Staten Island), openly gay Matthew Titone is running for re-election. He is the son of former New York Court of Appeals Judge Vito Titone, who wrote the court’s 1989 opinion in Braschi v. Stahl Associates, holding that the term “family” in a state housing law included gay couples. Sweet.

In Florida (polls close 7 pm EST), Prop 6 would amend the Florida Constitution to ban public funding for abortions. The ballot question states:

This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.

Adoption requires a 60% majority.

Also Florida (U.S. House – FL-22) – Democrat Lois Frankel is seeking to win an open seat in the Palm Beach area for the Dems. If she succeeds, there will be another strong progressive ally in the House. (OK, and she’s a friend from law school.)

Still Florida – Openly gay incumbent Judge Darrin Gayles is on the ballot for retention as a judge on the state circuit court for the 11th circuit, centered in Miami.

Massachusetts (U.S. House – MA-6) (polls close 8 pm EST) – Openly gay Republican Richard Tisei won endorsements from the Boston Globe and the gay paper Bay Windows in his campaign to become the first openly gay Republican (who came out before being elected) that voters have sent to Congress.

Rhode Island (U.S. House RI-1) (polls close 8 pm EST ) – Openly gay incumbent David Cicilline is battling a strong challenge from Republican Brendan Doherty, former head of the state police.

Michigan (polls close 8 or 9 pm EST; state straddles two time zones) – Two judicial races: openly gay attorney Ken Ross is seeking a judgeship on the 30th circuit, in Ingham County, and open lesbian Carol Kuhnke is running for a judicial position in Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor).

And finally, Alabama – Remember Alabama Supreme Court  Chief Justice Roy Moore?  He was removed from that position in 2003 for having violated a federal court order requiring removal of the Ten Commandments statute he had installed in the court building. Well, he’s baaaaack - or at least he might be back. He’s campaigning for re-election to the Chief Justice spot. This time, he says he won’t attempt to re-install the monument. What a guy.

Central -

Wisconsin (polls close 9 pm EST) could truly make history by sending openly lesbian Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate. In Baldwin’s former House district (WI-2), openly gay Mark Pocan is running to succeed her.

Minnesota (polls close 9 pm EST) – Hopefully there will be a big no vote on this ballot question: “Should the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

Iowa (polls close 10 pm EST)  - The retention election for Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins has become a battle over same-sex marriage because Wiggins joined the opinion in Varnum v. Brien finding the ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional under the Iowa Constitution. 

Oklahoma (polls close 8 pm EST) Question 759 – Voters will say yes or no to a state constitutional amendment banning affirmative action by state government. The ballot text states

The measure deals with three areas of government action. These areas are employment, education and contracting.

In these areas, the measure does not allow affirmative action programs. Affirmative action programs give preferred treatment based on race, color or gender. They also give preferred treatment based on ethnicity or national origin. Discrimination on these bases is also not permitted.

The measure permits affirmative action in three instances. 1. When gender is a bonafide qualification, it is allowed. 2. Existing court orders and consent decrees that require preferred treatment will continue and can be followed. 3. Affirmative action is allowed when needed to keep or obtain federal funds.

In Illinois (polls close 8 pm EST), openly lesbian Judge Andrea Schliefer is seeking keep her position on the Cook County Circuit Court.

In Texas (polls close 8 or 9 pm EST), openly lesbian Rosemary Lehmberg is running for re-election as District Attorney of Travis County (Austin).

Mountain states

Colorado (U.S. House CO-2)  (polls close 9 pm EST) – Incumbent House member and gay dad Jared Polis should have no difficulty retaining his seat. If he fails, it must mean that Dems in Colorado are having a really brutal night.

Idaho (U.S. House ID-2) (polls close 10 or 11 pm EST) – Openly gay state senator Nicole Lefavour is a long shot to unseat incumbent Republican Mike Simpson.

The Left Coast time zone

Washington state (polls close  11 pm EST) – Voters will pick between “Approved” or “Rejected” based on the following summary: “This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to  perform, recognize or accommodate any marriage ceremony.”

But - we probably won’t know the outcome for days. Washington allows voting by mail, and counts ballots postmarked on election day that are received within five days later. So if it’s close, we might have to tune in again next Sunday or Monday.

Arizona (U.S. House AZ-9) (polls close 9 pm EST) – Openly bisexual Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker are vying to fill a newly reconfigured district near Phoenix.

California (polls close 11 pm EST) (U.S. House CA-41) – Openly gay teacher Mark Tatano is fighting Republican John Tavaglione to represent another newly redrawn district.

Also in California – Prop 35 is going before voters cast as a mom-and-apple-pie opportunity to vote against human trafficking. The problem? While invoking all trafficking – and there are countless examples of forced labor, often migrants, in California – the initiative limits its enhanced penalties to sex offenders. And sex “offenders” can include sex workers, whose names would go into a lifelong registry. The LA Times urged voters to say no.  I agree and would vote no.

Oregon (polls close 11 pm EST) – Open lesbian Nena Cook is  seeking an open seat on the Oregon Supreme Court. If she wins, that court’s seven justices will include three openly gay or lesbian members.

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