Tuesday’s election brought advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality a few steps closer to making gains in the Minnesota Legislature while Minnesota sent a less supportive delegation to Congress. While there is much for them to celebrate, advocates say the path to equality is still an uphill battle. “Change” is on the lips of everyone post election, but what kind of change can LGBT Minnesotans expect at the local and national level?
In Minneapolis, lesbian Carla Bates became the only LGBT person elected to the school board at a time when an anti-bullying program that includes education about the LGBT community has generated controversy among conservative religious parents. She was the only out candidate running for the spot.
The Minnesota House saw significant gains in LGBT-supportive candidates. OutFront Minnesota Action, the political wing of the state’s largest LGBT advocacy and policy organization, says that as of Tuesday’s election, a slim majority of House members are supporters. Fifty-one percent of House members vote for pro-LGBT legislation at least 50 percent of the time and 43 percent vote with the community 100 percent of the time. The number of House members who vote against the interests of LGBT Minnesotans has declined markedly in the last three elections. Only 24 percent vote against the community 100 percent of the time, down from 33 percent in 2006 and 50 percent in 2004.
OutFront noted four supportive House members who lost their re-election bids: DFLers Shelley Madore of Apple Valley, Ken Tschumper of La Crescent and Sandy Wollschlager of Red Wing, and Republican-turned-independent Ron Erhardt of Edina.
At the same time, two outspoken opponents of LGBT equality lost their bids for re-election. Republican Lynn Wardlow of Eagan lost to DFLer Mike Obermueller, and Republican Sondra Erickson of Princeton lost to DFLer Gail Kulick Jackson. Wardlow and Erickson were leaders in the push to amend the Minnesota constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and both consistently voted against bills aimed at rectifying inequalities in state statutes for LGBT people.
Minnesota sent a less supportive delegation to Congress. Republican Erik Paulsen replaces Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad. Ramstad supported employment and housing equality for LGBT people, while Paulsen was a leader in the Minnesota House pushing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The re-election of Republican Reps. John Kline and Michele Bachmann and of DFL Rep. Collin Peterson retains three members who have consistently voted against the community’s interests. DFL Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz and James Oberstar won re-election, and each has made contributions to LGBT equality in Congress.
For U.S. Senate, Al Franken and Sen. Norm Coleman face a recount in an incredibly close election. Coleman supported employment and housing protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans, and Franken ran on an unwavering LGBT equality platform. It will be weeks before a decision is finalized in that race.
Barack Obama represents the most LGBT-friendly president in Unites States history. “President-elect Obama included GLBT people in his acceptance speech and supports federal legislation including hate crime and employment protections as well as other measures that will help our families do better,” said OutFront Minnesota Action. “He plans to keep GLBT people and families in mind when creating policy solutions for our country.”