Republicans won control of the U.S. House in Tuesday’s elections. As of 3 a.m. Wednesday, it appears the GOP will hold at least 234 seats, to Democrats’ 180.
But Democrats retained a slim majority in the U.S. Senate –holding 51 seats, compared to the Republicans’ 47. Senate races in Washington State and Colorado are still considered too close to call on Wednesday morning.
The LGBT community will be able to celebrate the addition of a fourth openly gay member to the House and the re-election of the three openly gay incumbents, but the loss of a Democratic majority in that chamber spells the end for hope that any of the dozen or so pro-gay measures pending in Congress have any chance of advancing in the next two years.
“If anyone thinks that the Democrats are going to come back in the lame duck session of Congress and repeal DADT, I have a bridge to sell you,” blogged longtime Democratic gay activist David Mixner last night at davidmixner.com. “In the last two years, we have failed to achieve our goals on DOMA, DADT and ENDA. We even have failed to pass pension and health insurance for federal employees. It appears that the Justice Department's appeal of the DADT decision could have cost us any chance of getting DADT repealed.”
The new Republican majority also increases the likelihood that measures hostile to LGBT civil rights issues can be publicized through hearings in committee that will, starting next January, be chaired by Republicans.
While U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made many promises to move LGBT legislation under her watch as Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a zero record on gay-related matters in the past three sessions Congress, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Two other political zeros will be at his side: Eric Cantor of Virginia as the likely minority whip, and Mike Pence of Indiana, as Republican Conference Chair.
Openly gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will return to their seats in the next Congressional session. They will be joined by the openly gay mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, who will be representing that state’s 1st Congressional district. Two other openly gay candidates for Congress on Tuesday did not succeed – Steve Pougnet in California and Ed Potosnak in New Jersey.
There were numerous other losses for the LGBT community to mourn in Tuesday’s results. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), who led the charge to gain passage of a measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), lost his seat to Republican challenger Michael Fitzpatrick, who was endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans. And five other strong LGBT supporters lost Tuesday night, including Reps. Phil Hare (Illinois’ 17th Congressional district), John Hall (NY’s 19th), Michael Arcuri (NY’s 24th), John Salazar (Colorado’s 3rd), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1st). Hare earned a 100 percent score from HRC; Hall earned a 90, Arcuri an 85; and Salazar and Shea-Porter an 80.
Among other candidates with LGBT support who lost Tuesday night included Arizona Democratic Rep. Harry Mitchell, voted for ENDA in 2007 and opposed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the federal constitution. Mitchell was defeated by Republican David Schweikert, who has said, “Traditional marriage is the basis for a functional society.” Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards earned an HRC contribution even though he was not a strong supporter of equal rights for gays. But he was trounced by an even more conservative Republican opponent, Bill Flores. Flores says he believes “there is one definition of marriage and that is between one man and one woman” and has said he will “stand firm against any effort to change this or force Texas to recognize “gay marriages” in other states.”
At least 12 of 17 Republican candidates endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans won re-election Tuesday night. In addition to Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania that included Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida’s 18th), Judy Biggert and Bob Dold (Illinois 13th and 10th), Todd Platts (Pennsylvania 19th), Charles Dent (Pennsylvania’s 15th), Dave Reichert (Washington’s 8th), Leonard Lance of New Jersey’s 7th, Charlie Bass (New Hampshire 2nd) Nan Hayworth of New York’s 19th, and Richard Hanna of New York’s 24th.
One painful loss for Log Cabin was Republican incumbent Joseph Cao of New Orleans (Louisiana’s 2nd). The group just this year presented Cao with its “Spirit of Lincoln” award for his support on the hate crimes bill and co-sponsorship of a bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Republican Sean Bielat who earned the endorsement of a relatively new gay conservative group –GOProud—lost in his bid to unseat longtime Democratic gay Congressman Barney Frank, even though Bielat is against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and for “traditional marriage.”
In the Senate, the LGBT losses include longtime civil rights supporter Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who was beaten by Republican newcomer Ron Johnson. Feingold was one of only 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. Johnson, like Feingold, supports repeal of DADT but only if the military approves it. He opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples. Pro-gay Democrat Alexi Giannoulias lost in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois to Republican Mark Kirk. Kirk, in the House, earned relatively strong scores from HRC, but last June he voted against repeal of DADT. Following numerous reports by bloggers that Kirk is a closeted gay man, a local television reporter asked him why the bloggers “keep saying that.” Kirk, who has said publicly he is not gay, said he thinks it’s because he’s divorced. And both Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent Charlie Crist failed to win the seat from Florida. That, instead, will be held by Republican Marco Rubio, who opposes repeal of DADT.
On the brighter side, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid beat out Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle. Reid was supportive of LGBT civil rights; Angle is not. California Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime LGBT supportive Democrat and one of the 14 DOMA opponents, has held onto her seat, defeating less supportive Republican Carly Fiorina. And pro-gay Democrat Chris Coons, endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, easily defeated Republican gadfly Christine O’Donnell. Coons has said he will “continue fighting for LGBT issues,” including marriage equality, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
It is still unclear who has won the Senate races in Colorado and Washington State. In Colorado, incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet appears, on Wednesday morning, to hold onto a very slight lead against Republican Ken Buck who has implied that homosexuality is akin to alcoholism. And in Washington, incumbent pro-gay Democrat Patty Murray is clinging to a thin lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi, who opposes marriage equality and domestic partnerships.
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