Top na­tional news of 2012: Obama says ‘I do’

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In per­haps the big­gest year for the LGBT rights move­ment in his­tory, one story stands out as the most sig­nif­i­cant: Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion af­ter he pub­licly en­dorsed mar­riage equal­ity.

Obama won re-elec­tion by tak­ing 51 per­cent of the pop­u­lar vote com­pared to the 47 per­cent won by Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney, paving the way for the pro-LGBT poli­cies of his first term to con­tinue over the next four years. Obama won ma­jor swing states, in­clud­ing Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Vir­ginia.

In May, dur­ing a TV in­ter­view with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, Obama an­nounced his per­sonal sup­port for same-sex mar­riage, mak­ing him the first sit­ting U.S. pres­i­dent to take that step.

“I have to tell you that over the course of sev­eral years as I have talked to friends and fam­ily and neigh­bors, when I think about mem­bers of my own staff who are in in­cred­i­bly com­mit­ted monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships, same-sex re­la­tion­ships ... at a cer­tain point I’ve just con­cluded that for me per­son­ally it is im­por­tant for me to go ahead and af­firm that I think same-sex cou­ples should be able to get mar­ried,” Obama said.

In con­trast, Rom­ney said on the same day that he op­poses both same-sex mar­riage as well as civil unions of­fer­ing the same ben­e­fits as mar­riage.

Obama’s an­nounce­ment, which fol­lowed Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph Bi­den’s sup­port for same­sex mar­riage an­nounced dur­ing an in­ter­view on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” con­cluded the 19-month “evo­lu­tion” that Obama started in Novem­ber 2010 when he told pro­gres­sive blog­gers that he might even­tu­ally sup­port mar­riage equal­ity.

Still, Obama said his en­dorse­ment was a per­sonal one and that he was hes­i­tant to ad­dress the is­sue pre­vi­ously be­cause he didn’t want to na­tion­al­ize it. The pres­i­dent main­tained states should be left to de­bate the is­sue be­cause mar­riage hasn’t tra­di­tion­ally been de­ter­mined at the fed­eral level.

Fol­low­ing Obama’s en­dorse­ment, a num­ber of high-pro­file Democrats fol­lowed Obama’s lead and made sim­i­lar state­ments in fa­vor of mar­riage equal­ity — such as House Demo­cratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and As­sis­tant Mi­nor­ity Leader Jim Cly­burn (R-S.C.) — as well as celebri­ties, such as ac­tor Will Smith and rap­per Jay-Z.

The move was also pos­i­tive in terms of fi­nanc­ing for the Obama cam­paign. Ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis from Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio, do­na­tions to Obama nearly tripled in the im­me­di­ate pe­riod af­ter the an­nounce­ment. The cam­paign took in nearly $9 mil­lion over three days, com­pared to $3.4 mil­lion in the three pre­vi­ous days.

Mar­riage equal­ity took a gi­ant leap for­ward on Elec­tion Day when, for the first time, vot­ers in three states ap­proved same-sex mar­riage rights at the bal­lot. In ad­di­tion, vot­ers in Min­nesota re­jected a bal­lot mea­sure to ban same-sex mar­riage.

The re­sults brought the to­tal num­ber of states where same-sex mar­riage is le­gal to nine plus D.C.

Same-sex mar­riage was made le­gal by ref­er­enda in Mary­land, Maine and Washington State. The mar­gin of vic­tory in each state was slim; in Mary­land, the mea­sure passed with 52.4 per­cent of the vote.

Evan Wolf­son, pres­i­dent of Free­dom to Marry, praised the wins af­ter the re­sults of the bal­lot ini­tia­tives were an­nounced.

“Our huge, happy and his­toric wave of wins last night sig­naled ir­refutable mo­men­tum for the free­dom to marry, with vot­ers join­ing courts, leg­is­la­tures and the re­elected pres­i­dent of the United States in mov­ing the coun­try to­ward the right side of his­tory,” Wolf­son said.

But those vic­to­ries came just months af­ter a de­feat for LGBT ad­vo­cates in May when North Carolina ap­proved an amend­ment ban­ning same-sex mar­riage.

Tammy Baldwin made his­tory on Elec­tion Day when she be­came the first openly gay per­son to win elec­tion to the U.S. Se­nate.

In a closely watched con­test in Wis­con­sin, Baldwin, a Demo­crat, won elec­tion to the Se­nate in a race against Repub­li­can former Gov. Tommy Thompson. She won the elec­tion af­ter serv­ing nine terms in the U.S. House and be­ing the first non-in­cum­bent openly gay per­son to win a con­gres­sional race.

Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of her vic­tory, Baldwin said she’s “well aware” that she will be the first openly gay mem­ber of the United States Se­nate, but said she “didn’t run to make his­tory.”

“I ran to make a dif­fer­ence — a dif­fer­ence in the lives of fam­i­lies strug­gling to find work and pay the bills, a dif­fer­ence in the lives of stu­dents wor­ried about debt and se­niors wor­ried about their re­tire­ment se­cu­rity, a dif­fer­ence in the lives veter­ans who fought for us and need some­one fight­ing for them and their fam­i­lies when they re­turn home from war, a dif­fer­ence in the lives of en­trepreneurs try­ing to build a busi­ness and work­ing peo­ple try­ing to build some eco­nomic se­cu­rity,” Baldwin said.

A record num­ber of les­bian, gay and bi­sex­ual can­di­dates were elected to the U.S. House this year, nearly dou­bling the num­ber of out rep­re­sen­ta­tives serv­ing in the lower cham­ber of Congress.

Gay Reps. Jared Po­lis (D-Colo.) and David Ci­cilline (D-R.I.) won re-elec­tion in Novem­ber, and on the same night, out Demo­cratic can­di­dates Sean Pa­trick Maloney of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Ari­zona, Mark Takano of Cal­i­for­nia and Mark Po­can of Wis­con­sin won their races.

The new ad­di­tions — mi­nus Rep. Bar­ney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (DWis.), who are leav­ing the U.S. House — mean LGB rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the cham­ber will jump from four law­mak­ers to seven.

Sinema will be­come the first openly bi­sex­ual mem­ber of Congress and Takano will be­come the first openly gay per­son of color to have a House seat. Po­can’s elec­tion means Wis­con­sin’s 2nd con­gres­sional district will main­tain gay rep­re­sen­ta­tion as Baldwin heads to the U.S. Se­nate.

The Supreme Court set the stage this year for what might be the demise of Cal­i­for­nia’s Propo­si­tion 8 and the De­fense of Mar­riage Act when it agreed to take up lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing the anti-gay mea­sures.

On Dec. 7, jus­tices agreed to take up Hollingsworth v. Perry, the law­suit seek­ing to over­turn Prop 8, and Wind­sor v. United States, a law­suit filed by 83-year-old New York les­bian Edith Wind­sor seek­ing to over­turn DOMA.

Ted Ol­son, one of the co-coun­sels rep­re­sent­ing plain­tiffs, ex­pressed op­ti­mism fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment that jus­tices would rule against the Cal­i­for­nia’s con­sti­tu­tional ban on same-sex mar­riage, which was ap­proved by vot­ers in 2008.

“We have an ex­haus­tive record on which to build this case, and it will be an ed­u­ca­tion for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Ol­son said. “We are very con­fi­dent the out­come of this case will be to sup­port the rights of our gay and les­bian brothers and sis­ters.”

The case comes to the Supreme Court af­ter the U.S. Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Fe­bru­ary ruled against Prop 8. Had the Supreme Court de­clined to ac­cept the case, the rul­ing would have stood and mar­riage equal­ity would have been re­stored to Cal­i­for­nia.

The DOMA case comes to the Supreme Court af­ter numer­ous lower courts de­ter­mined the anti-gay law was un­con­sti­tu­tional. The U.S. First Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals be­came

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