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Religion and Identity in the 2012 Elections

A new American  portrait emerges

Adam Chandler
November 07, 2012

Depending upon what channel you were watching the election results on–or if you were watching at all (my mother confessed that she went to a scotch tasting)–you might have noted some milestones when it comes to American representation. Beyond the Jewish presence which, despite being only 2% of the U.S. population, can boast 10 members of the Senate and 22 members of the House, there were some firsts in the mix.

There are now an unprecedented 18 women serving in the Senate. One of them is Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who is now the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. Another is Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who is the first Buddhist and Asian-born candidate elected to the Senate. (Also in Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu elected to Congress.)

Ballot initiatives involving same-sex marriage came before voters in Maine, Washington, Maryland, where they were soundly approved, marking the first time that these issues were put to statewide referendum and passed. Minnesota voters struck down an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

Oddly lumped in together with these results: news of the passage of referendums legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington. Massachusetts voters also approved medical marijuana.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.