By David Crary
New York – 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 Iowa vote was seen as a signal that judges in other states could face similar punitive challenges.
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 Wisconsin and Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, an Iraq war veteran who volunteered to be the House leader of the effort to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
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 Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., – a key to blocking repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” – was re-elected.