Around 10:45 p.m., the patrons and staff of a Madison gay bar put everything on pause and raised a toast to the results of the 2012 election.
“Here’s to four more years moving forward,” Plan B Co-Owner Rico Sabatini said over a microphone as martini glasses of champagne were raised all around him. “The trifecta: Mark Pocan, Tammy Baldwin and Barack Obama.”
In what was expected by many to be a long and arduous night, those at Plan B had by then, and by their measure, already experienced a big win for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Pocan, an openly gay state representative, easily won his election for the U.S. House of Representatives. He will take over the seat vacated by Baldwin, D-Wis., who made history Tuesday night by becoming the first openly gay U.S. senator.
Baldwin defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson in a heated race that carried national interest.
Obama, a supporter of gay marriage and other gay rights, took Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes and defeated Republican challenger and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass, for another four years in the White House.
“It’s really encouraging,” University of Wisconsin junior Megan Frost said with regard to how the state voted. “It sets a precedent for the rest of the country.”
In the months leading up to Election Day, Plan B remained active in the 2012 campaign. It hosted fundraisers for Baldwin and Pocan, D-Wis., and also functioned as an outpost for voter registration, Sabatini said.
A steady stream of patrons arrived throughout the evening, who took advantage of the one free drink offered to those with an “I voted” sticker. By 9:30 p.m., the swelling volume of chatter had nearly drowned out the audio of the television coverage.
The room burst into cheers when Pocan came on the screens to deliver a victory speech and when NBC projected Obama to take Wisconsin and, later, the Electoral College.
“I know this is a huge step forward for equality,” said Chez Ordo?ez, an endorsement committee member for Milwaukee-based Equality Wisconsin, over the phone. “[Gays] are going to be champions for equality. This is a great night for Wisconsin and for America.”
Several patrons said they were optimistic but nervous for the election and viewed the presidential outcome as critical in terms of LGBT rights.
Deborah Hamill, 33, worried about Romney’s stances on same-sex marriage and adoption, as well as the future open seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, which are filled by presidential appointment.
Jessie Ackerman, 24, called the presidential election the most crucial of the night in terms of LGBT rights.
“Obama had to win; no question about it,” she said. “The country would have gone backwards otherwise.”
Ordo?ez, on the other hand, declined to put one election above another but said he considered Baldwin’s victory the biggest milestone of the night.
Jason Burns, executive director of Equality Wisconsin, said before the results began pouring in the night represented a pivotal moment for the LGBT community and for Wisconsin to continue its reputation as one of the most progressive states in the country.
And for Sabatini, the state delivered.
“I’m more than proud to be a resident of Wisconsin,” he said. “I’m more than ecstatic.”