America Votes

Midterm election results a sobering reality for gay rights movement

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, concedes defeat to Gov. Paul LePage at an election night rally in Portland, Maine. Michaud, a gay candidate, narrowly lost his chance to make history as the nation's first elected openly gay state governor. Joel Page, AP

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, concedes defeat to Gov. Paul LePage at an election night rally in Portland, Maine. Michaud, a gay candidate, narrowly lost his chance to make history as the nation's first elected openly gay state governor.Joel Page, AP

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, concedes defeat to Gov. Paul LePage at an election night rally in Portland, Maine. Michaud, a gay candidate, narrowly lost his chance to make history as the nation’s first elected openly gay state governor.

Massachusetts became the first state to elect an openly gay attorney general, while the gay candidate in Maine’s gubernatorial race narrowly lost his chance to make history. Nationally, gay rights activists worried that conservative gains in Congress would hamper their bid for federal anti-bias legislation.

In all, it was a sobering election for the gay rights movement, contrasting with its recent court victories that have nearly doubled the number of states allowing same-sex marriage. In U.S. Senate races, for example, several Democrats who supported same-sex marriage โ€” including Mark Udall of Colorado and Kay Hagan of North Carolina โ€” lost to Republicans who oppose it.

Among the highlights for gay rights activists was Democrat Maura Healey’s election as Massachusetts attorney general. Healey, a former chief of the civil rights division in the attorney general’s office, was captain of the women’s basketball team at Harvard and played pro basketball in Austria before launching her law career.

Healey will be the nation’s first openly gay Attorney General.

In Maine, Democrat Mike Michaud fell short in his bid to become the first openly gay candidate in the U.S. to be elected governor.

The 59-year-old former mill worker and six-term congressman, who made his sexual orientation public last year, had said it would be a boost for the gay community to have a voice in discussions among governors on equality issues.

In near-complete returns in a three-way race, Michaud had about 44 percent of the votes, while incumbent Republican Paul LePage was re-elected with 48 percent. An independent candidate, who may have undercut Michaud’s chances, got 8 percent.

All five of the openly gay members of the U.S. House of RepresentativesJared Polis (Colo.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Mark Takano (Calif.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.) — all won re-election, as did Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who is bisexual.

But several gay candidates seeking to join their ranks were defeated โ€” including Democrat Sean Eldridge, husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, in eastern New York, and Republican Richard Tisei in a hard-fought race against Democrat Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, in Massachusetts.

Another gay Republican, Carl DeMaio, was in a virtual dead with Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in a House district in San Diego. DeMaio confronted allegations from a former staffer of sexual harassment in the campaign’s final weeks.

There have been gay GOP congressmen previously, but none who was out of the closet at the time they first won their seat.

Looking ahead, gay rights leaders acknowledged that the new Congress, with an infusion of conservative Republicans, would be unlikely to support a federal bill outlawing a broad range of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. That has become a top priority for activists now that same-sex marriage seems on the path to nationwide legalization.

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