As I’ve been writing here, marriage is on the ballot in four states on Tuesday: Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota. The upbeat news from the first three states is that those voters have a chance to say yes to letting same-sex couples get married. In each of those, the ballot question is some variant of this sentence: Should [our state] issue civil marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples, while preserving religious freedom and protecting clergy from having to perform such marriages if doing so violates their tenets?
In each of those, the campaigns are positive: citizens get to vote yes to allowing lesbians and gay men promise to care for each other lifelong, in ways recognized by the state. I’m not saying we’re going to win all of those fights; I’m hoping for one or two this year, and another two or more in the next election cycle. But those at least are positive campaigns, opportunities for voters to say yes.
On a rainy Sunday night in Madison, Wisconsin, 30 energized volunteers turned out at the Democratic headquarters on State Street to register University of Wisconsin students to vote. Tammy Baldwin, sporting a magenta blazer, milled about, chatting with the constituents she represents in the U.S. House. Come January, she'll either be out of Congress or representing a larger swath of the state in the U.S. Senate.
Facing former four-term Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, Baldwin is locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country. Most recent polls have her favored by a slim margin, with Real Clear Politics' average putting her up by just 0.3 percent. It's been a brutal few years for Democrats in Wisconsin. The state elected and re-elected one of the nation's most right-wing governors, launched Paul Ryan into the national spotlight, and voted out progressive icon Russ Feingold. If Baldwin wins, though, she will disprove conservatives' claims that Wisconsin is no longer a bastion for progressive politics.
This year, in three states, citizens will have a chance to vote on marriage equality. A “yes” vote in any of the three—Maine, Maryland, and Washington—will be a vote to allow the state to issue civil marriage licenses to same-sex pairs.
Every year, Halloween comes with its own predictable traditions: trick-or-treating, pumpkin recipes, costumes based on bad puns, and increasingly, the tradition of women wearing ever-skimpier Halloween costumes and feminists online decrying the trend through blogs and social networks. To quote the movie Mean Girls: “In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
I regularly get all giddy and Tiggerish about how far lesbians and gay man have come from the bad old days of, say, the late 1970s when I came out. Back then, most of the mainstream didn’t quite notice we were human. I do remember the moment I first realized that I wanted to kiss a girl, and my stomach fell out of me with fear: I didn’t want to be one of them. It’s hard to convey to you all how different things are and how far we’ve come.
I’ve been thinking about this because, on her Bloggingheads show last week, Sarah Posner asked me whether, ten years ago, I would have imagined we’d be as far along as we are on marriage. Ten years ago, yes. In 2002, it was pretty clear what path we were on. But in the 1970s, marriage was simply beyond conceivable.
I’ve heard from many folks in the Maryland and D.C. area who really, really want to win marriage equality at the ballot this November 6. And I deeply hope that you will—more profoundly than I can express. But I don’t like how the numbers look at this particular moment. Going into the balloting with only 52 percent in favor is very close; historically, we’ve lost a few points from the public polling once people get in the voting booth. In the past, 52 percent just hasn’t been enough to cut it.
Todd Akin, the Republican challenger for Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate seat representing Missouri, has made himself a national figure so far this election season by declaring that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” and claiming that abortion clinics routinely perform abortions on women who aren’t actually pregnant. But what’s garnered less attention, until this week, has been Akin’s history of not just saying but also doing disturbing things. His history shows a lifelong dedication to a misogynist right-wing ideology that flirts with using force to get its way when persuasion fails.
You gotta love these heartland Republicans. From a Blue state point of view, the kinds of things that Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, et al. have been saying are so eye-rollingly over the top that they seem designed precisely to keep Comedy Central and MSNBC in business.
You know what I’m talking about, right? Akin started our heads spinning when he mansplained that if a woman gets pregnant, it couldn’t have been legitimate rape—because a woman’s bodies can only wash in those little swimmers if she was hot to trot to begin with. In this week’s installment of repro rights funnies, Mourdock explained on television that he was against abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest because:
Sure, it's fun to hate her. She's a dance mom to a high-priced horse. She crowed about her “real marriage” to Mitt during her RNC speech, which would count as a homophobic dog whistle if it weren’t loud enough for everyone to hear. She wears thousand-dollar t-shirts and still manages to dress like a modern-day June Cleaver. And this Fall she's taken to saying bafflingly tone-deaf things to reporters, like that she has “concern” for her husband’s “mental well-being” should he actually have to serve as president.
But all snark aside, why should we care about Ann Romney? The answers may seem obvious: If her husband is elected, she'll surely have the ear of the President of the United States in ways most cabinet members only dream of. She provides a window into a strange and often inscrutable candidate. And of course, the campaign has designated her a surrogate, so who are we to argue?
But none of these answers stand up to scrutiny. Governors and Senators often have wives who surely influence them in myriad ways. As for giving us insight into the candidate, what exactly do we learn from Ann Romney about Mitt, except that he seems capable of human emotion toward her, and that neither one of them is in possession of a particularly fine-tuned political ear?
The sixth in a Prospect series on the 174 ballot measures up for a vote this November.
Last week, I announced my caution about the chances of winning same-sex marriage at the ballot in Maryland. Just after I wrote that, a Washington Post poll showed that voters are leaning 52 percent to 43 percent in favor of upholding the marriage-equality law there. I got a lot of pushback, based on that poll. Look, that’s better than the reverse. But those of us who have watched same-sex marriage get voted on—and voted down—32 times since 1996 have learned a few basic things:
Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a major part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since DOMA had already been held unconstitutional by the First Circuit, on one level this doesn't change anything, since the case was almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court anyway. But today's opinion is important because the theory underlying the court's holding goes much further than the First Circuit did.
The cognoscenti have been telling me that the Supreme Court won't officially decide whether or not to take a DOMA case until after the election, lest they influence our voting one way or another. But today we got yet another clue that they will have to—and which way they will almost certainly decide.
That's because today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it finds DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional, in yet another decision written by a conservative Republican-appointed judge, as was true in the Massachusetts cases decided by the First Circuit.
Here’s the thing I loved about talking with Mara Keisling this week: her flat-out declaration that transpeople are winning their civil rights and cultural acceptance battles. I’m crazily Tiggerish on lesbian and gay issues: we’ve come so far so unbelievably fast, over my lifetime, that some days I bounce with glee. But given that the trans part of the LGBT coalition got started about 15 years later and has had very different challenges, I was still an Eeyore about their efforts. So it made my day to hear Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality executive director, declare a coming victory. “Science is on our side, first of all,” she explained. “Common sense is on our side. Decency is on our side. When you get that combination, you win every time.”
Secretary Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the situation in Benghazi on Monday, noting to the press that the “president and the vice-president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals.” There are a number of appropriate reactions this statement. One could assume it’s a bit of politicking during election season, an attempt to take the heat off the president and help his re-election bid. One could see it as a diplomatic move, aimed at quelling tensions in the Middle East. One could take it at face value. Or, one could lose her ever-loving mind and accuse Clinton of betraying feminism.
Mitt Romney is no stranger to shifting positions on reproductive rights, but even for him, his latest move is audacious. In an ad released today, he simply denies that he’s ever held conservative positions on contraception and abortion:
If you can’t watch videos, here’s what the narrator says:
“You know, those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraceptions seemed a bit extreme, so I looked into it. Turns out, Romney doesn’t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, and to save a mother’s life.”