Liberal Heroes of the Week #21: The US states of Maine, Maryland, Washington and Colorado

by Stephen Tall on November 9, 2012

ImageWelcome to the 21st in our series, Liberal Hero of the Week, chosen by Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and Research Associate at CentreForum. ’Liberal Heroes’ showcases those who promote the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book — economic, personal, political and social liberalism — highlighting individuals regardless of party affiliation and from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism then they’re in contention.

The US states of Maine, Maryland, Washington and Colorado

Reason: For, between them, voting for gay marriage and the legalisation of cannabis.

If you heard a loud exhalation when you woke up on Wednesday morning it was probably the sound of the huge collective sigh of relief that greeted Mitt Romney’s defeat in the US presidential election. Governor Romney himself was not the problem. It was that he was the standard-bearer for a party that has become increasingly intolerant and illiberal, a party that would have controlled him far more than he could have controlled it.

But Tuesday wasn’t just about avoiding the disaster of a GOP-run White House. There was also genuine cause for celebration thanks to voters in the following US states giving their assent to liberal causes: in Maine, Maryland and Washington, voters approved or ratified same-sex union initiatives on the ballot; while in Colorado and Washington (again), voters opted to legalise recreational marijuana use.

It’s easy (and lazy) for we Brits to assume that the US is defined by the worst tendencies of the ‘tea partyers’, that social conservatism is the universal orthodoxy of “you guys who want to reduce the size of government… make it just small enough so it can fit in our bedrooms,” (as The West Wing’s Josh Lyman one put it).

A liberal society is one which allows its citizens to live the life they want as long as they don’t inhibit another’s freedom. What churches chose to do is their own business, but a liberal state has no business ill-defining love between individuals simply because they’re the same sex. And a liberal state which accepts freedom of choice should not prohibit substances so long as their risks are made transparent.

If you agree and you live in the UK, there is something practical you can do. In fact, two things. First, you can show your support for equal marriage here. And secondly, you can write to your MP to let them know your views, either about equal marriage or the legalisation of cannabis — or both.

And it somehow seems appropriate in this week of all weeks to share this West Wing clip of everyone’s favourite liberal — and entirely invented — President:

Now… what’s next?

* You can view our list of ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ (and occasional ‘Liberal Villains’) here. Nominations are welcome via email or Twitter.