In which we unveil GayRVA's brand new, totally unscientific election evaluation tool!
Marilyn Drew Necci | November 8, 2018
Midterm elections can be tough to parse. There’s a lot going on, and even the races that directly pertain to the street where you live don’t always have clearly understandable consequences. Let’s be real — with gerrymandering as much as fact of life as it has become in 21st century Virginia, most of us don’t live in districts that are even in play. Today, as we stare at the fresh results of a million different small races that took place all over the country, let’s try and figure out which of these races actually did matter and how the fortunes of LGBTQ people in the United States will be affected by their overall outcomes.
To determine such a thing, we’ve invented a highly-unscientific measurement that we’re calling The Q Score. We’ll award different positive or negative numbers to the various results of yesterday’s voting, then add ‘em all up and determine whether we as a community gained or lost ground on the whole. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Democrats Took Back the House of Representatives
This is the biggest, most obvious win we can point to as a community. This finally brings some sort of check against the Trump administration’s rampage against the LGBTQ community during his first two years in office. And it does have some substantive advantages, too. Most obvious and sweeping would be the passage of the Equality Act, something Nancy Pelosi has promised will happen once the Democrats hold a majority in the House.
The Equality Act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that has been working its way through Congress without final passage since the 70s. Most importantly in the face of our current battles over LGBTQ rights, it would update the term “sex,” as it is used in Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and would define “gender identity” in a broad fashion that would cover the gender-related expressions of the non-binary community.
If the Democrats are able to get this bill passed in the House, it still must get through the Senate and across the President’s desk without a veto. Chances of all this happening seem pretty slim, especially with the president currently pushing his Health And Human Services Department to redefine the term “sex” in a much more restrictive fashion. Still, if the House Of Representatives passes the Equality Act — which has never happened before — we’re one step closer to it becoming the law of the land.
Q Score: +6
The Senate Remains Under Republican Control
Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: this is very bad. It’s not a very significant margin — Republicans currently have 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats, with three still undecided. Even if they end up with all three, they’ll still only have 54 seats, well short of a filibuster-proof majority. But unlike Democrats, who during the Obama administration sacrificed quite a few viable political issues to the possibility of Republican filibuster, Republicans have no problem forcing as many of their bills as necessary into reconciliation and deciding on them with a straight majority vote. Chances are, with the Senate staying under Republican control, a great deal of what the House will be able to do under the Democrats will be neutralized.
Additionally, of course, there’s the question of judicial nominations. So far, the Senate has been a rubber stamp for two controversial Trump nominees to the Supreme Court; both Neil Gorsuch and, infamously, Brett Kavanaugh. Will any other Supreme Court justices leave the court in the next two years? We’d better hope not.
However, even if they don’t, the Senate has a key role in the confirmation of all judges at the federal level — and Trump has been regularly nominating judges with anti-LGBTQ records, as Lambda Legal has done an excellent job of documenting. We could really use a Democratic Senate to act as a check on the most flagrantly anti-LGBTQ Trump nominees; for at least two more years, we’re not gonna get it.
Q Score: -9
The Predicted Rainbow Wave Was Largely Successful
We’ve been hearing for a while now about the “Rainbow Wave” that, it was hoped, would vastly increase LGBTQ representation in government on both the state and federal levels. Political action committee the Victory Fund was particularly pushing for it, tracking LGBTQ candidates for federal, state, and local elections all over the country and finding more than 400.
Turns out the Rainbow Wave was real, particularly on the Congressional level. While it’s still not clear just how many LGBTQ candidates will make their way to the House in January (more on that in a minute), it’s at least eight. Tammy Baldwin, the country’s first LGBTQ Senator, was re-elected to the US Senate.
Quite a few LGBTQ candidates made it onto state legislatures as well, including the first two LGBTQ state legislators in Kansas, Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodward. In Pennsylvania, Malcolm Kenyatta became the first black LGBTQ person elected to their state legislature. He joined fellow LGBTQ state legislator Brian Sims, who was first elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature in 2012 and was re-elected on Tuesday. And that’s not to mention the many candidates elected to local office around the country, including Teri Johnson, who was elected mayor of Key West, FL to become the state’s first lesbian mayor.
Q score: +8
Several Races Involving LGBTQ Candidates Are Still Too Close To Call:
Two days after the election, we still have no idea whether Arizona Senatorial candidate Kyrsten Sinema, who would be the first openly bisexual Senator, is still locked in a dead heat with Republican Martha McSally. Things have gotten so heated there that the Republicans are now suing to limit the amount of mail-in ballots that can be counted in the state. As it is now, less than 20 thousand votes separate the totals for Sinema and McSally, and due to Arizona’s unusual system of voting, there are over half a million ballots still outstanding.
Meanwhile, in Texas, the count separating LGBTQ Congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones and her Republican opponent, Will Hurd, is somewhere between 700 and 1500 votes. Ortiz hasn’t requested a recount yet, but is urging that all military, absentee, and provisional ballots be counted before any final result is certified. We may be a while on hearing what’s going on with this one as well.
There are quite a few races involving LGBTQ candidates being hotly contested in state legislatures around the country as well. And here in Virginia, VA Beach City Council candidate David Nygaard, whom we profiled earlier this year, is headed to a recount, as Nygaard currently leads opponent John Uhrin by less than 200 votes.
How will all of these races turn out? The answer will definitely affect our feelings on this whole election.
Q score: -3
Colorado elected the first openly gay man to serve as governor in US history:
Excellent news in Colorado, as Jared Polis becomes the state’s first openly gay governor — and the first openly gay man to serve in the office anywhere in the country (he was preceded as an LGBTQ governor by Kate Brown, an open lesbian who won governor of Oregon in 2014, and was re-elected Tuesday). Polis was previously a Colorado Congressional representative, initially elected in 2008. When his first child was born in 2011, Polis became Congress’s first openly-gay parent.
Q score: +7
Christine Hallquist, who would have been the first transgender governor in US history, lost:
Vermont gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist is already a history-maker: she was the first transgender person anywhere in the US to be a major party’s candidate for governor. However, despite the full support of the Democratic party in a notoriously liberal state, Hallquist ultimately lost to incumbent Republican Phil Scott. So her chance to make even bigger history is lost — at least for now.
In her concession speech, Hallquist sounded the alarm about the precarious state the transgender community finds themselves in under Trump. “I’m afraid for the future of my community,” she said. “I do feel groundbreaking, but what good does it do if we don’t change things? We have safe policies [in Vermont], but if I get my passport revoked because I’m transgender, what are you going to do?”
Hallquist’s defeat, and the very valid concerns she aired in her concession, sound a disquieting note for transgender Americans. What’s coming next for us?
Q score: -5
Two Big Losses In Texas
Lupe Valdez was the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, and an open lesbian. She lost her race to incumbent Republican Greg Scott, who won the latest in a long string of Texas gubernatorial elections that went red. The last time a Democrat won the office was in 1990 — before many of our younger readers were born.
It was sad to see Valdez lose, but we could all predict that it would happen. More heartbreaking was the defeat of Beto O’Rourke by Ted Cruz, who won a close race to serve a second term in the US Senate. Cruz has long maintained that homosexuality is a choice, and advised states that weren’t directly named in Obergefell v. Hodges to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling and continue to block gay marriages. Cruz’s claim that the ruling did not apply to those states was called “literally true, but deeply misleading” by American University law professor Stephen Vladeck.
Considering the perennial thorn in our side Cruz has been over the past six years, we would have advised Texas voters to choose a literal footstool over him. However, O’Rourke’s candidacy offered far better than just an end to Cruz’s odious presence on the Senate — Human Rights Campaign endorsed O’Rourke back in April, and HRC President Chad Griffin called him “a proven champion of equality who will defend the rights of all Texans.” O’Rourke may not himself be LGBTQ, but his loss is no less heartbreaking for our community.
Q score: -4
Massachusetts Passed Proposition 3
Massachusetts voters were offered a choice on Tuesday: whether or not to retain a 2016 state law that forbade discrimination in public places on the basis of gender identity. As soon as the law passed, conservative forces mobilized in an attempt to overturn it, using the same overblown rhetoric that has surrounded a variety of anti-trans “bathroom bills” that have shown up in various states all over the country over the past several years.
It was looking like a close race heading into the polls, but it turned out not to be once Massachusetts residents started casting their votes. Ultimately, 67 percent of voters wanted to keep the law, and used their vote to let the state’s government know it. It’s still too early to tell whether this decision, in a traditionally liberal state, signals that the tide is turning on public support for transgender people. But it definitely offers us hope.
Q score: +5
Kim Davis lost her seat as Rowan County Clerk:
You remember Kim Davis, right? The county clerk in Kentucky who, after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling made marriage equality the law of the land, refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, on the grounds that if she issued them, she’d eventually have to issue one to a same-sex couple? Uh huh. HER. She became a conservative cause celebre for a little while, due to her citing of religious beliefs and “God’s authority” and all that, but she was ultimately sued, jailed for contempt of court, and forced by law to begin issuing marriage licenses no matter how she felt about it.
Davis came up for re-election this week, and while no one was really paying attention to the race on a national level, Davis’s notoriety had apparently done enough to mobilize the vote against her that her Democratic challenger, Elwood Caudill Jr., was able to beat her by about 700 votes. Of course, there was some weirdness around that guy too — a gay man who’d previously been denied a marriage license by Davis said Caudill was homophobic and had used anti-gay slurs. Caudill blamed a facebook hack. Who knows the truth there, but he’s likely to be better than Kim Davis, if nothing else. And it’s always good to see a right-wing grandstander get hers — even if it only affects one small county in Kentucky.
Q score: +2
Two trans women were elected to New Hampshire’s state legislature:
Last year saw our own Danica Roem become the first transgender state legislator when she defeated much-despised opponent of all LGBTQ rights Bob Marshall and took over his seat in Virginia’s House Of Delegates. It ruled. But what rules even more is that, after Tuesday, Roem is no longer the only transgender state legislator in the United States. Not one but two trans women, Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker, were elected to New Hampshire’s state House Of Representatives. Overnight, trans representation on state legislatures has tripled. Now that’s what I call progress.
Q score: +4
Zach Wahls Was Elected To Iowa’s State Senate:
You may not remember the name Zach Wahls, but you’re sure to remember his speech. Back in 2011, when Iowa’s state legislature — which, in 2009, became only the third US state to legalize same-sex marriage — was debating a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, Wahls addressed the Iowa House’s Judiciary Committee. The son of a lesbian couple, he spoke passionately about the strength of his family and how important marriage equality was for his parents, and for himself.
Wahls later went on to address the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and formed Scouts For Equality, an advocacy group working to end anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America. One could argue that he’s done pretty well with that mission, but on Tuesday, he started on a new one, becoming, at 27, one of the youngest representatives in Iowa’s House of Representatives — the very governing body he spoke so passionately to, all those years ago. Goes to show just how much the children of LGBTQ parents can accomplish.
Q score: +3
Adding it all up, that leaves us with a cumulative Q Score of 14. Not bad for a completely unscientific evaluation, right?
But seriously, a number this high reflects a larger truth. For all the trouble the LGBTQ community here in the United States have dealt with under Trump, things are still moving forward in a positive direction for us. Hopefully future elections will leave us with even more to be positive about.
Images by Lindsay Eastham