Editors' Note: Guest blogger Michael Mitchell is the Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats.
By the time you read this, many of you will have already voted, either by mail, at special in-person voting locations or because you made it to the polls this morning on your way to work. Before I say anything else, let me say "thank you" for taking part in our democracy and making your voice heard. If you haven't voted yet, I promise you this is not an election you want to sit out. Dozens of races - many with pro-equality candidates - could be decided by a handful of votes.
If you are planning on sitting out this election for whatever reason, I implore you to get down to the polls and cast your vote for the best pro-equality candidates in the races on your ballot. You may be ticked at President Obama for not doing enough for the LGBT community, but he's not on the ballot and there are some good, hard-working Democrats who need you.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (PA-8), the champion who pushed DADT repeal through the House, is on the ballot. Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulious, running for President Obama's former Senate seat, is as well- and he's one of the most vocal supporters of our community's issues, including full marriage equality.
Also on the ballot is Chris Coons, running for Senate in Delaware; he's unabashed in his support of the things we care about. So is Rep. Dina Titus (NV-3). So is Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13). And so is Rep. Tim Bishop (NY-1), who is the proud, first-time grandfather of a baby with two moms, his daughter and her partner.
There are pro-equality Democrats running in every corner of America, friends and heroes who need our support. They belong to a party that understands that there's a place for LGBT people at the table and is working toward a goal of full LGBT equality.
The only other viable party in the game is not.
In fact, the modern Republican Party is hardly modern at all - what with the doggedness with which they refuse to budge on issues that a fast-growing majority of Americans support. Issues such as DADT repeal, fully inclusive employment non-discrimination, immigration reform that includes lesbian and gay couples, and marriage equality, among others.
Regarding DADT repeal, the GOP will blame every Democrat in sight for the lethargic pace of progress, but remember that NOT ONE Republican Senator voted for repeal in September - taking issue with process instead of taking a stand to do right by brave lesbian and gay soldiers. (For the record, I'm also not happy with the two Democratic Senators who joined them).
I'm worried as hell about a Republican-dominated House, not least of which because extreme, right-wing Members will be in charge of committees. Say good-bye to any hope of getting a fully-inclusive ENDA out of committee, or the Uniting American Families Act, or any number of our other bills. Yes, I know we didn't get them to a floor vote in the last two years, but getting so much as a committee hearing for those bills is going to be very difficult - if not impossible - with a GOP in thrall to extreme conservatives.
One example is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-3), the ranking Republican on the committee that handles appropriations for DC. He is a vociferous opponent of marriage equality and will likely do all he can to halt marriages for gay and lesbian couples in the District.
Rep. John Kline (MN-2) is expected to take over Education and Labor, the committee that will hear ENDA. He has a zero rating across the board on LGBT issues and was one of the main proponents of the GOP's "Pledge to America" which was long on rhetorical flourishes, but very short on actual plans to get Americans back to work. It's highly doubtful that ENDA will come out of his committee, not only because it affects LGBT people, but also because the GOP has the wrongheaded perception that it would be bad for business.
Come January, these two represent just a small fraction of what you're gonna see in Washington for the next two years.
If you're not voting, you're allowing other people to make the decision for you - and those other folks don't have your interests at heart.
It's been argued that President Obama doesn't have the interests of the LGBT community at heart either. While one could certainly win an argument over whether or not he's done "enough" for our community, the fact remains that he has done more for us than any other President.
He has issued executive orders lifting the HIV travel ban, ordering hospitals to allow us equal visitation rights and providing domestic partner benefits for Federal employees. He also signed the Matthew Shepard Act, which Bush vetoed twice, into law. Incidentally, this was also the first time the words 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' were used in Federal law. He has also appointed over 150 LGBT people to administration positions, including several transgender folks.
Again, it's not enough; but it's certainly more than a McCain/Palin Administration would have given us.
And it's more, I fear, than a Boehner-led House will ever consider.
I get that you might be frustrated with the pace of change; I know I am. But with a GOP majority in the House, the pace of change is going to come to a screeching halt. I remember what it was like when the GOP ran the show - it simply wasn't good for equality.
If you haven't voted yet, please do. And when you do, please vote for pro-equality Democrats.