11/08/2012 03:14 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Historic Election for Equality Means We Must Work Even Harder

Without a doubt, Election Day was a landslide victory for equality. Watching the historic results roll in on issues and candidates that matter to the progress of civil rights for LGBT people was truly a snapshot of just how much, and how quickly, this country has changed on social issues.

Obviously the reelection of President Obama is a huge win for LGBT equality. Bringing back the first sitting president who not only came out in support of marriage equality but signed comprehensive hate crimes legislation and ended "don't ask, don't tell" proved that supporting and legislating equality isn't the political suicide opponents said it would be. In fact, his party's out-of-touch views on social issues like LGBT rights were actively used against Mitt Romney, who was endorsed by groups like the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. The president's reelection proves that vocal support for our rights can now be seen as a political plus, and that regressive policies about equality are politically damaging.

Election Day also saw the end of a long pattern of losses for state-level marriage equality at the ballot box. We saw first-of-their-kind marriage equality victories in three new states -- Maine, Maryland and Washington -- and also saw the defeat a marriage rights ban in Minnesota. Remember, just a few short years ago we lost marriage rights in the reliably liberal state of California with Prop 8. Now we have a historic clean sweep for equality around the country. Equality opponents poured millions of dollars into fighting basic rights for LGBT people and their families -- and the electorate finally rejected the lies, smears and scare tactics used against our community for decades. As Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley so finely put it, "A message to Maryland's kids: whether your parents happen to be gay or straight, your families are equal under the law."

We also saw records shatter in the federal government as an unprecedented number of LGBT candidates got elected to Congress. The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus will grow with the addition of three new members: Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is poised to become the first openly bisexual member of Congress; Mark Takano (D-Calif.), first Asian-American openly gay member of Congress; and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.). They join several reelected and newly elected LGBT equality supporters in both chambers. Another rainbow glass ceiling shattered with the election of Tammy Baldwin, a lesbian, as the historic first out LGBT United States Senator. Less reported but just as important is that fact that we saw a huge number of state legislatures get their first out LGBT lawmakers ever. North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania all got out LGBT lawmakers in state government for the first time in history. Having a government on all levels that better reflects the diversity of our country, and our community's place in it, is truly amazing and groundbreaking.

Beyond the sheer historic number of equality wins on Election Day, we see an even more important fact emerging: Being anti-equality isn't good, or even safe, politics anymore. And that is a huge change in a short period of time.

And therein lies the real lesson from this election: We have to harness that equality momentum.

The wins of out and allied lawmakers at all levels of government, from the presidency down to local city commissions, is vitally important. But now the real work begins. We have to use these political tools given to us to push forward on vital LGBT issues, like a comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, in this next cycle. We have to seize the narrative from this election and drive home the truth to anti-equality politicians and organizations alike that they do not have the support of the American people and will pay for it at the ballot box. We have to continue to shine a light on the fact that opponents of LGBT equality are also the same people making "legitimate rape" comments and telling minorities to "self-deport" so that we can continue to build on the large network of fair-minded voters, organizations and communities fighting for their equality, as well.

Equality has turned a corner in our country, and there is no going back. But what we do with the victories we worked so hard for this election cycle is truly up to us. Now is when we roll up our sleeves and continue our march toward full equality.

As Ted Kennedy said at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, "The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on."