(AP) - Gay-rights activists celebrated a few bright spots on Election Day, but they also suffered some major setbacks - including losses by key supporters in Congress and the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court judges who had ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
On both sides of the marriage debate, the
The congressional results further clouded the prospects for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy so that gays could serve openly in the military. Democratic leaders, including President Barack Obama, hope for a repeal vote in the Senate during the upcoming lame-duck session, but the post-election climate may strengthen the hand of conservatives wary of repeal.
And leading gay activists acknowledged that the Republican takeover in the House of Representatives likely doomed short-term hopes for major gay-rights legislation addressing workplace discrimination and federal recognition of same-sex couples.
"The loss of the House to anti-equality leaders is a serious blow," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. He said the incoming GOP House leadership had a track record of opposing gay-rights initiatives.
Among the Democratic losers on Tuesday were several staunch gay-rights supporters, including Sen. Russ Feingold of
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, which opposes any role for gays in the military, welcomed the defeats of Murphy and Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., the former Navy admiral who lost his bid for a Senate seat.
"Both candidates tried to disguise their extreme social liberalism with military uniforms they had previously worn," said Donnelly, who noted that Republican Sen. John McCain - a key to blocking repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" - was re-elected in
Perhaps most sobering for gay activists was the removal of the three
That ruling, making
Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit will be removed at year's end after about 54 percent of voters backed their ouster - the first time
The National Organization for Marriage and other foes of gay marriage around the country spent an estimated $1 million on the removal effort, while the three judges chose not to raise money and campaign.
"This spiteful campaign is a wake-up call to future voters who must resist attempts to politicize the courts," said Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal, a national gay-rights group. "If an embattled judiciary were to lose its ability to protect our laws and constitution with impartiality, that would be a tragic loss."
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, depicted the judges' ouster, coupled with the GOP gains in Congress, as a "historic and stunning" victory for foes of gay marriage.
Evan Wolfson, a gay-rights lawyer who heads the national group Freedom to Marry, said the judicial recall was intended as "an intimidating, thuggish message" to other courts.
"If I had just mugged a judge, I wouldn't be running around bragging about it," he said.
The results set the stage for several likely state battles over same-sex marriage next year.
Gay-rights groups said the election of governors in
Foes of gay marriage said Republican legislative gains could benefit their cause in
"The backers of gay marriage are fond of telling the lie that gay marriage is inevitable in this country," Brown said. "What we have shown in this election is that support for gay marriage is a career-ending position for judges and legislators."
However, Brown's organization failed in its bid to defeat
Some gay activists elsewhere had cause for celebration. David Cicilline, the mayor of
Other openly gay winners included Jim Gray as mayor of
In California's Alameda County, Victoria Kolakowski was elected a Superior Court judge; the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund said she is the first openly transgender trial court judge in America.
"There is no sugar-coating the loss of so many of our straight allies in Congress," said Victory Fund president Chuck Wolfe. "But we can be proud that our community continues to expand its voice at all levels of government in