This week in wins: Democrats rack up victories across the country on Election Day


It was a week of nationwide electoral wins for Democrats. But that's only one of the good things that happened this week.

A federal judge ruled that the U.S. government has to make mental health care available for victims of family separation, legislation making animal cruelty a federal crime is about to become law, and Georgetown joined a nationwide trend by promoting student voter registration.

Read on to catch up on this week's wins.

Democrats win big on Election Day, while minority candidates make history

Democrats scored big victories on Election Day, winning races for local offices in the traditionally Republican Philadelphia suburbs and taking the Virginia legislature, giving Democrats full control of the state government for the first time in 26 years. 

In Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear defeated deeply unpopular Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. And New Jersey Democrats now control 54 of the 80 seats in their state assembly, a sizable majority last equaled in 1978.

Tuesday's elections also saw victories by candidates of color, refugees, and LGBTQ people. Safiya Khalid, a Somali refugee in Maine, won a seat on the Lewiston City Council, the governing body of Maine's second-largest city and a former mill town, after facing online threats and racist attacks.

Ken Miyagishima won a fourth term as mayor of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Miyagishima's father was forced to spend World War II in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona. 

In Tucson, Arizona, Regina Romero will be the first Latina to become mayor in the city's history.

And all five of Virginia's LGBTQ legislators were reelected Tuesday. Del. Danica Roem, the state's first openly transgender lawmaker, won despite transphobic GOP attacks. The Advocate magazine called it a "rainbow wave."

"Democrats' resounding victories across the country make loud and clear that we are in a strong position to protect and expand our House Majority in 2020," Rep. Cheri Bustos, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said.

Judge strikes down anti-abortion rule

On Wednesday, a Manhattan federal court struck down a Trump administration rule that would have allowed health care workers to opt out of providing any kind of care by declaring a religious objection. 

The rule, which was scheduled to take effect on Nov. 22, included anyone who "assist[s] in the performance" of a procedure, including billing staff and receptionists. 

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer excoriated the administration, saying that its violations of federal law were "numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching" and that it had "acted arbitrarily and capriciously."

The so-called "conscience rule" would have given any person involved in the medical industry freedom to refuse any kind of care if they said it violated their personal beliefs, regardless of federal anti-discrimination laws. Advocates contend that many important medical procedures — like abortion, gender confirmation surgery, and hormone therapy — would all have been threatened.

The Trump administration has tried to make similar allowances for employers, which were struck down in October. 

"We are heartened by today's ruling, and we will not stop fighting to prioritize patients' need for standard medical care over health-care personnels' personal religious or moral beliefs," the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association said in a statement.

Georgetown becomes latest school to promote student voter registration and engagement

Georgetown University is giving students the opportunity to register to vote at the same time they register for classes. Students at Georgetown can now simply click a "Voter Registration" button on the website they use to select classes. The move is part of a plan to reach 100% voter registration and increase turnout among students at the school.

A New York Times investigation in October found that Republicans across the country are trying to suppress the rising tide of student voters. Students disproportionately identify as Democrats: 45% of college students age 18-24 do so, compared to 29% of Americans. 

Georgetown's push to include students in the electoral process echoes similar efforts by some Texas colleges that are providing students with mobile polling places on campus.

"The integration of GU Votes resources directly into our course registration system represents a real commitment to civic engagement on behalf of the university," said student Andrew Straky, who led the change at Georgetown. "Even in a time of such heightened interest in our political process, young voters continue to face several intentional and unintentional barriers to voting. This is a landmark step in ensuring that every Georgetown student who wants to vote is able to do so."

U.S. government will provide victims of family separation long-term mental health care

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled Tuesday that the government must make mental health services available to immigrant families the Trump administration forcibly separated. U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt said that the U.S. government had treated immigrant families with "deliberate indifference," causing "severe mental trauma to parents and their children." 

The U.S. will have to provide mental health screenings for those families, as well as counseling and other kinds of treatment long-term.

The ruling applies to the nearly 3,000 children who were stolen from their parents as a result of Trump's zero tolerance policy.

"You cannot have a policy of deliberately trying to injure a family bond," said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the firm who brought the case to court. "Cruelty cannot be part of an enforcement policy."

Anti-animal cruelty bill sails through Senate

The Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday making animal cruelty a federal crime. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, sponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal, (D-CT) will unify the patchwork of currently existing state animal cruelty statutes. The PACT Act received unanimous bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

"There is no place in a civilized society for maiming and torturing animals — period," Blumenthal said. "Senator Toomey and I have spent years working to hold the barbaric individuals who commit these crimes accountable, and I'm glad that Congress is now finally sending our bill to the president's desk to be signed into law."

Ohio stops taxing tampons

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill Wednesday repealing a sales tax on tampons and other period products. S.B. 26 passed the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously in October, but there were doubts that it would pass in the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate or receive the Republican governor's signature. 

The "pink tax," activists' term for the bill, makes essential period products more expensive, with the cost falling exclusively on those who menstruate.

The legislation was sponsored by state Reps. Brigid Kelly, a Democrat, and Niraj Antani, a Republican.

"This is an important step towards ensuring that everyone who has a period is able to lead a healthy life and fully participate in their communities as they choose,” Kelly said in a statement.

Ohio joins the 15 other states that don't tax tampons. They are still considered luxury items subject to taxation in the other 34.