Openly LGBT candidates generally fared well in Tuesday’s municipal elections across the country, even as progress on equality may be receding in other states, like Kentucky.
In Maryland, the openly gay former mayor of Salisbury, Jim Ireton, was elected to a seat on the city council there after deciding not to run for re-election to the mayor’s seat. Meanwhile, in College Park, Council member Patrick Wojahn became the first openly gay mayor of the university town.
In Salt Lake City, according to the first batch of election returns, out lesbian Jackie Biskupski was leading in the race for mayor of Salt Lake City, sporting a nearly five-point margin over incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker. LGBT advocates really had nothing to lose with this race, as Becker has been an ally of the LGBT community. Openly gay candidate Derek Kitchen also held a lead in the race for Salt Lake City’s District 4 Council seat. But Sophia Hawes-Tingey, a transgender challenger for City Council in Midvale, Utah, was trailing incumbent Paul Glover. More returns are expected to be released today before the results are finalized in Utah.
But LGBT advocates also saw a potential ally go down after Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, failed to retain the governorship for his party. Republican Matt Bevin, in the lead up to the election, heavily emphasized social issues, particularly opposition to marriage equality. Bevin had argued to The Washington Post that voters were more concerned about issues like religious liberty, which came to the forefront of the governor’s race after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis made a significant stand against marriage equality. Davis went to jail in September rather than be forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, making her a martyr in the eyes of conservatives who felt that she should have been allowed to refuse to issue the licenses due to her personal religious beliefs opposing homosexuality.
As a result of Bevin’s election, some LGBT advocates expect to see anti-equality legislation introduced in the Bluegrass State during the next legislative session, meaning they will be on defense with a legislature, that, even though split between the parties, is largely socially conservative. As a result, advocates for equality will likely be forced to rely on the courts for any progress on LGBT rights. In a rare bright spot for Democrats, Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, narrowly won the race for attorney general. Incumbent Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was re-elected to her post, but the number of LGBT issues that come before the Secretary of State’s office is much smaller than those that would come before the attorney general’s office.
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