The National Organization for Marriage bought television advertising to knock out two Democrats, who both went on to lose. Meanwhile, the midterm election brought with it the first ever Republican to run for U.S. Senate and win while supporting marriage equality.
RESULT: Extreme Right-Winger Joni Ernst Takes Iowa Senate Seat Republican Joni Ernst will be Iowa's newest U.S. senator, defeating Democrat Bruce Braley for the seat being vacated by retiring Democrat and staunch LGBT ally Tom Harkin, MSNBC reports. AP results show Ernst with 51 percent of the vote, Braley with 44, with 81 percent of precincts reporting. Early on in her campaign, Ernst attempted to impress her heavily agricultural state with an ad touting her expertise in castrating hogs, but she'd also like to cut gay people off at the knees. Iowa has had marriage equality for five years, thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, but as a state senator she backed a constitutional amendment that would override that ruling; the effort to amend the state's constitution, which requires approval by both lawmakers and voters, has stalled, however. She has also said the definition of marriage should be left up to the states, except of course if she has the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage nationwide.
She has asserted that judges should recognize that laws "come from God" and make their rulings accordingly. And something that she's tried to downplay in her campaign is her belief in conspiracy theories, but as recently as January she was railing against Agenda 21, an obscure United Nations community-planning initiative, saying it threatens citizens' property rights and other freedoms. -- Trudy Ring
RESULT: Thom Tillis Defeats Kay Hagan, Helping GOP to Senate Majority
The Associated Press has projected Republican Thom Tillis as the winner of this race, defeating incumbent Kay Hagan, a Democrat and marriage equality supporter. With more than 97 percent of precincts in, Tillis had 48.9 percent of the vote to Hagan's 47.2 percent. Hagan became a special target of the antigay National Organization for Marriage. Last week NOM released a TV ad denouncing her for having voted to confirm U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn, whose October ruling struck down North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage. What NOM's ad didn't mention is that Cogburn was confirmed on a vote of 96-0, and that the state's other U.S. senator, Republican Richard Burr, was as enthusiastic as Hagan in supporting Cogburn.
Tillis wants to revive the marriage ban. After Cogburn's ruling, a second federal judge, William Osteen, struck down the ban in a separate case but (unlike Cogburn) allowed Tillis, currently speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, leader of the state Senate, to intervene in the case and appeal his ruling. (The state's attorney general had ceased defending the ban.) Not that they're likely to have much luck at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which ruled against a similar ban in Virginia, a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand and that guided the district court judges in their rulings on the North Carolina ban.
"Pursuing this appeal will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, all so that [Tillis] can rally conservative opponents of gay marriage to support his election bid," The New York Times observed. Tillis, who has denounced "liberal activist judges," and Berger have hired no less than NOM chairman John Eastman to argue their case. -- Trudy Ring
RESULT: Mark Pryor Loses After Satisfying No One on Marriage Equality
The last Democrat in the Senate to oppose marriage equality -- Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- lost reelection on Tuesday after facing attacks from both sides of the issue.
When a wave of U.S. senators began changing their minds about marriage equality, Pryor was the only Democrat left who personally opposed it. Last year, a spokesman for Pryor's campaign told a local newspaper that Pryor believes homosexuality is a choice and that he opposes marriage equality based on a "moral belief." Days later, Pryor said he was "undecided" on the issue. And when asked about it during a debate this election cycle, Pryor pointed out that he voted in favor of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Every other Democratic U.S. senator supports marriage equality, with Mary Landrieu of Louisiana providing the odd triangulation that while she personally supports the freedom to marry, she will oppose it in policy making because that's what her constituents would want. But Pryor's opposition didn't get him any love from the likes of the National Organization for Marriage, which bought television advertising against him, asking in a 30-second spot, "Can we trust Mark Pryor to defend traditional marriage?"
NOM's television ad accuses Pryor of lying about his opposition to marriage equality, claiming that "publicly Pryor opposes gay marriage ... while privately he supports it." As evidence for that claim, NOM's ad includes video that purports to show a "gay leader" recounting how Pryor told her he actually isn't against same-sex marriage but that if she ever told anyone, he would find her and kill her. The progressive Arkansas Times reports that this footage features a college student filmed without her knowledge, and her comments were spliced together by "discredited undercover filmmaker James O'Keefe."
Pryor, a two-term senator, was in a close race for reelection against Republican challenger Tom Cotton, who was projected as the winner by MSNBC.
A state judge has ruled that Arkansas' amendment banning same-sex marriage violates both the U.S. and state constitutions. That ruling briefly brought marriage equality to the state before the Arkansas Supreme Court stepped in to put it on hold pending appeal. --Sunnivie Brydum, Lucas Grindley
RESULT: Maine's Susan Collins Wins in an Important First for Republicans
Susan Collins wins reelection in Maine, according to CNN, and becomes the first Republican senator to be reelected while supporting marriage equality. A small number of Republicans have said they back marriage equality -- Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- but none had yet faced reelection.
Collins has a long record of supporting LGBT Americans on issues they care about, so much so that the Human Rights Campaign took the unusual step of endorsing her over a Democratic challenger in the race.
Collins provided one of the GOP votes needed to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." She also voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it passed the Senate for the first time ever, even speaking out on the floor in favor of it, though the bill later stalled in the House. Collins was for a long time enigmatic about her support for same-sex marriage, saying only that it was a state issue, and her state repealed a ban. But she eventually clarified her position and reaffirmed it during an October debate with Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, who was also a supporter of marriage equality. In fact, Bellows led the coalition "Mainers United for Marriage," which campaigned for a ballot measure that returned marriage equality to Maine in 2012. --Lucas Grindley
RESULT: Tea Partier Cory Gardner Ousts Pro-LGBT Mark Udall
For the first time in more than a decade, Colorado will be sending a Republican to Washington, as former U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Udall in Tuesday's election.
When campaign season began, most observers favored Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, the state's senior U.S. Senator, over his Republican challenger Cory Gardner, who was representing Colorado in the U.S. House. But the race quickly became one of the nation's most heated, and since September, gay statistician Nate Silver's data-based prediction site, FiveThirtyEight, has been predicting bad news for the incumbent Democrat. The site's most recent entry regarding Colorado, filed in late October, is titled "Colorado Polling Is Probably Right. Udall is Losing." Once again, FiveThirtyEight called it correctly -- Gardner took a full 50 percent of the vote compared to Udall's 43 percent, according to the Associated Press.
That could spell bad news for LGBT people in Colorado, as Gardner has a history of taking antigay and anti-choice positions, where Udall is a tried-and-true Democrat who first announced his support for marriage equality in 2011 and has long been a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Gardner, on the other hand, is a Tea Party Republican with a history of denying climate change and supporting contentious "personhood" legislation in Colorado that would, in effect, make most forms of birth control illegal. (The latest effort to define life as beginning at conception in Colorado failed on Tuesday, the fourth time anti-choice advocates have tried unsuccessfully to sell Coloradans their unscientific agenda.) While Gardner has tried to distance himself from that right-wing stance, a reporter moderating the October 15 Senate debate between Gardner and Udall noted that last year Gardner was a House sponsor of a federal "personhood amendment," which would declare that life begins at conception and effectively outlaw abortion nationwide. When it comes to LGBT equality, Gardner has long been a staunch opponent, voting against domestic partner benefits and opposing second-parent adoption when he was a state legislator. After marriage equality arrived in Colorado following the Supreme Court's action last month, Gardner stood by his belief that "marriage is between a man and a woman," though he did acknowledge that "we must honor [the court's] legal decisions," according to local station KDVR-TV. -- Sunnivie Brydum