Yet despite fears that it could cost him the election, earlier this year Obama became the first sitting president to proudly stand in support of marriage equality. Around the same time, we saw, also for the first time, marriage equality enshrined in the Democratic platform. With the president’s reelection last night – as well as the election of so many national candidates who support marriage equality and other LGBT rights, including Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) – we can now say with certainty that supporting LGBT equality is a plus and not a minus for candidates running for public office.
Further, last night in Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota (and likely Washington State), gay Americans achieved historic and unprecedented victories, as voters in those states have affirmed their support for same-sex couples marrying. These wins – combined with national polling data that consistently show Americans support the right of same-sex couples to marry – lay the foundation for the United States Supreme Court to strike down the clearly unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples.
Yet these changes would lack meaning if only supported by a select few. The past four years have seen unprecedented coalition building in all parts of the LGBT community. Civil rights groups like the NAACP and National Council of La Raza have stood up with marriage equality advocates across the country to support this right for gay couples, mobilizing their formidable constituents to get to the polls and vote for equality.
To be sure, President Obama’s leadership on marriage equality is huge, and we saw its impact in the four state victories last night. But this support has overshadowed many of the other LGBT equality advances that have happened thanks to his administration’s hard work in the past four years. Some of these wins might strike some as small-bore (e.g., directing federal dollars to ending LGBT youth homelessness) or even mundane (e.g., using federal surveys to collect data on the LGBT population), but they all aim to solve a specific and real problem impacting LGBT Americans.
Perhaps more importantly, all of these wins – big and small, in the headlines or in the footnotes – acknowledge the fact that LGBT Americans are part of this country’s social fabric and must be treated just like everyone else. This message is clearly resonating from coast to coast, and its momentum will not be stopped.
Stachelberg is executive vice president of external affairs and Krehely is the vice president of LGBT research and communications project at the Center for American Progress.