It's been a banner year for gay rights, with a handful of states legalizing same-sex marriage, congressional lawmakers — including a few Republicans — embracing marriage equality, and the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
That trend continued unabated this week with a flurry of activity at the ballot box and on Capitol Hill. The Senate advanced a landmark anti-discrimination bill; a gubernatorial candidate came out as gay; an anti-sodomy crusader lost his election; and two more states moved closer to legalizing same-sex marriage.
Not a bad week, and we're only halfway through it.
On Monday, the Senate advanced legislation that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation by a vote of 61-30, with seven Republicans crossing over to join the Democrats. The bill, called the Employer Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is now all but assured to pass when it comes up for a final vote Thursday.
Notably, no Republicans stood to decry the legislation before it cleared that procedural hurdle. And though the House could still spike the bill, Republicans may have to pay a steep penalty for doing so at the ballot box.
"I think the House is going to have to capitulate," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "if they have any hope of having a president that can be a viable candidate or they think they can elect some Republicans and they want to hang onto the House."
Also on Monday, Maine gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud (D) responded to rumors that he was gay by saying, simply, "Yes, I am. But why should it matter?" Should Michaud emerge victorious next November, he would become the nation's first openly gay candidate to win a gubernatorial election.
Though the election is still a year away, a poll from late August found Michaud with a slight lead over incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R) in a three-way race.
Then came Tuesday's elections, which offered even more good news for gay rights proponents.
In Virginia, anti-sodomy crusader Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) lost his gubernatorial race. His staunch, almost archaic position on sexual issues didn't exactly doom Cuccinelli's campaign — his stances on abortion and women's rights, his ties to deeply unpopular Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), and the government shutdown were more to blame. But his loss is nonetheless a victory for the gay rights community, and really for anyone who doesn't think oral sex is a crime.
Meanwhile, Houston re-elected openly gay Mayor Annise Parker (D), and Seattle made state Sen. Ed Murray (D) the city's first gay mayor. All told, of the 85 candidates endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, 53 prevailed Tuesday.
Elsewhere, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) cruised to a second term, his hefty margin of victory ensured in part by his high-profile decision to drop a legal challenge to gay marriage. And in Alabama, virulently anti-gay Tea Party candidate Dean Young — he's called homosexuality an "inherent evil against which children must be protected" — lost a primary campaign against a more moderate GOPer.
Marriage equality also got a huge boost Tuesday when the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has already said he will sign it, meaning Illinois will soon become the 15th state in the nation where gay couples can legally wed.
That tally could soon rise once again, since a House committee in Hawaii's state legislature on Tuesday advanced a bill that would legalize gay marriage there as well. The state Senate already passed such a bill in October, and the full House is expected to take up the measure this week.