From the chance to elect the nation’s first openly gay U.S. senator to the nation’s first state referendum to pro-actively legalize same-sex marriage, Nov. 6 could prove historic for LGBT equality.
Here are 10 key contests to watch around the country on Election Day.
Wisconsin: Tammy Baldwin
Democrat Tammy Baldwin made history in 1998 when she became the first non-incumbent openly LGBT person and the first out lesbian elected to the U.S. House, representing Wisconsin’s District 2.
Now, the Madison resident wants to make history again: as the first openly LGBT U.S. senator in history. She faces Republican Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and former U.S. Secretary for Health & Human Services, for the seat left open by Sen. Herb Kohl’s decision to retire.
Rhode Island: David Cicilline
Former mayor of Providence, R.I., David Cicilline’s 2010 election to the U.S. House made him “the fourth openly LGBT member of Congress and just the seventh LGBT person in U.S. history to serve openly on Capitol Hill,” according to the Victory Fund.
A Democrat, he faces a tough reelection battle for District 1 versus Republican Brendan Doherty and Independent David Vogel.
Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema
Running to represent Arizona’s 9th Congressional district, Phoenix resident Kyrsten Sinema would be the first out bisexual elected to Congress, according to the Victory Fund. In 2006, she led Arizona Together, the only successful effort to defeat an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative.
A Democrat, she faces Republican Vernon Parker and Libertarian Powell Gammill on the Nov. 6 ballot.
California: Mark Takano
A public high school teacher whose parents and grandparents were sent to Japanese American internment camps during World War II, Mark Takano would become the first openly LGBT person of color to serve in the U.S. Congress, according to the Victory Fund.
A Democrat, he is running against Republican John Tavaglione for the District 41 seat, based in Riverside County.
Massachusetts: Richard Tisei
Former Massachusetts state legislator Richard Tisei is running for the state’s District 6 seat in the U.S. House.
If successful, he would be the first out Republican elected to Congress as a non-incumbent; Republican U.S. Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and Steve Gunderson (R-Wisc.) both first came out while already serving in Congress.
Tisei faces Democrat John Tierney and Libertarian Daniel Fishman.
New York: Sean Patrick Maloney
A Democrat running for the 18th Congressional District, Maloney would be the first out gay member of Congress from New York. The Cold Spring resident lives with his partner of more than 20 years; the couple has three children.
Maloney faces Republican incumbent Nan Hayworth.
In November, Maine citizens will vote — not on a gay marriage ban — but on whether to pro-actively grant marriage equality in their state. This is the first such ballot measure in the country, brought by LGBT advocates rather than by anti-gay forces seeking to prevent or overturn same-sex marriage.
Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy organization that has invested $1 million in the Maine fight, cites a July 2012 poll from the Portland Press-Herald in which 57 percent of respondents favored allowing same-sex marriage.
The Maryland state legislature passed same-sex marriage last spring, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed it into law on March 1, 2012. Opponents pushed for a referendum on the November ballot to stop same-sex marriage, which was set to begin Jan. 1, 2013.
The ballot measure, known as Question 6 or the Civil Marriage Protection Act, “establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license.”
Minnesota already has a state law banning same-sex marriage. On Nov. 6, voters will be asked whether to amend the state constitution to recognize marriage “solely between one man and one woman.”
Washington’s state legislature approved a same-sex marriage bill early this year and Gov. Christine Gregoire signed it into law by on Feb. 13. Same-sex marriage was scheduled to begin in Washington on June 7, 2012, but opponents were able to gather enough signatures to get a ballot measure to overturn gay marriage approved for the November 2012 election.
To uphold same-sex marriage, voters will have to vote to approve Referendum 74.
Sources: Victory Fund, Freedom to Marry, Project Vote Smart
Top photo: (clockwise from top left) Tammy Baldwin • Wisconsin, David Cicilline • Rhode Island, Kyrsten Sinema • Arizona, Mark Takano • California, Richard Tisei • Massachusetts, Sean Patrick Maloney • New York (publicity photos)