All eyes will be on the presidential race when the first polls close on the East Coast. But while the contest between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will garner much of the attention tonight, several key congressional and state ballot measures will be key for LGBT voters. From Maryland to Wisconsin, these are the races to watch:
In Wisconsin, out Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is engaged in a heated race against former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) for the Senate. Polls are tight in the race, with Baldwin showing a slight lead over Thompson. If Baldwin wins, she would become the first out member of the Senate. With Republicans hoping to win control of the Senate, maintaining a Democratic majority could come down to Wisconsin.
Tierney vs. Tisei
Pro-gay Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney (D) is fighting for the seat in the House of Representatives he has held since 1997 against out Republican Richard Tisei. Tisei, who served 26 years in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Tisei is pro-choice and supports marriage equality and would become the first out Republican elected to the House as a non-incumbent.
Cicilline vs. Doherty
Out Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline (D) has served only one term in the House of Representatives but is facing a close race against Republican Brendan Doherty. Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence, has faced criticism for painting a rosier picture of the city’s budget situation than was actually true.
Polis vs. Lundberg
In Colorado, out Rep. Jared Polis (D) is facing a challenge from Republican Kevin Lundberg for the House seat he has held since 2008. Polis is expected to be easily re-elected.
Parker vs. Sinema
In Arizona, Democratic state Sen. Krysten Sinema is hoping to unseat Rep. Vernon Parker (R). If successful, Sinema would become the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress and the only out woman serving in the House.
Pocan vs. Lee
Democrat Marc Pocan is expected to easily be elected to the House seat being vacated by Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Facing off against Republican Christopher Lee in the liberal district, Pocan also replaced Baldwin in the Wisconsin State Legislature after she was first elected to Congress in 1998.
Hayworth vs. Maloney
In New York, out Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney is hoping to replace Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth. Although Maloney is gay, Hayworth has received support from gay conservatives, including Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, for pro-gay stances.
Takano vs. Tavaglione
California Democrat Mark Takano is in a closer race against Republican John Tavaglione and if successful would become the first out person of color elected to Congress.
In four states, voters will cast their ballots on marriage equality. For supporters of same-sex marriage, the ballot measures in Maryland, Washington, Maine and Minnesota, provide an opportunity to change the discussion over marriage equality.
Never before have marriage-equality supporters won at the polls, although they have secured legislative and judicial victories. Supporters, like the Human Rights Campaign, and opponents, like the National Organization for Marriage, have poured millions of dollars into the four states. Successful passage in any of the four ballot measure states could be a game-changer for the LGBT-rights movement.
In the Free State, Maryland voters will vote on Question 6 and decide whether marriage equality legislation passed by the State Legislature in February will go into effect early next year. Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who many speculate will run for president in 2016, has attached himself closely to the campaign.
Voters in Washington state will vote on Referendum 74 and decide whether that state will also put marriage equality legislation into effect, which was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire earlier this year.
Maine Ballot Initiative
Maine voters will vote on Question 1, which, unlike in Maryland and Washington, does not revolve around legislation. Instead, Maine will be the first state to vote on marriage equality petitioned for approval only by voters.
Minnesota Constitutional Amendment
Minnesota voters will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state.
[Photo: U.S. Capitol Building (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).]