This week, the US Supreme Court began hearing cases on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and DOMA. At this time of heightened passions and political debate, it seems about time to address a widespread perception of the politics of gay marriage. A widespread perception that is utterly and notoriously wrong.
That being, that the Democratic Party is the undisputed torch-bearer of gay rights, and that its very antithesis is to be found in the GOP. This notion, though seemingly predominant across the country, is not only flawed, but willfully deceptive. For, in many ways, the Democratic Party has taken advantage of its LGBT constituents; it has talked a big talk, but with astonishingly little to show for it.
What the Democratic Party has been offering to the gay community is the flawed narrative that Democrats are their only political friends, and thus their only choice. With this luxury, the party has done little to further the cause beyond what is politically expedient, using the hyperbolic boogie man of the GOP to mask the pitiful pace of their social progress.
You object. It is hard to reexamine something so long perceived to be uncontroversially true. For indeed, thereseems to be a host of examples of just how much the Democratic Party has done for gay rights under the Obama administration. I concede there are many examples. It is just that most of them are bad ones.
Take Obama’s recent “evolution” last year. Heralded as a brave and progressive endorsement of the fundamental right of gay couples to marry, the president is still enjoying widespread adoration from the gay community, even after these eleven months. However, just what did he say? Nearly anyone you meet will tell you he voiced his support for gay marriage. What few can say, is what— exactly— he said. Let’s examine.
“For me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
Alright so far. But what about this sly reservation that follows just after.
“I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn’t want to nationalize the issue… What I’m saying is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place, at a local level…”
Now hang on. This sounds oddly familiar. The president comes out in support of gay marriage— so long as it is left to the states to decide. With this peculiar stance, the president finds himself with odd political bedfellows indeed. For this is the selfsame position of several high-profile Republicans, and, for many, the stance is by no means a new one.
Hilariously, for example, Obama seems to share this position with one of the Left’s most loathed and ridiculed conservative pundits on the air. One Bill O’Reilly, who last year voiced his agreement with the president’s insipid position saying:
“Nobody gets hurt when gays marry but it does have deep implications for what kind of society we want to be. Therefore, individual states should decide the question. On that, I agree with President Obama.”
Another addition to this list would have to be GOP darling Marco Rubio, who also supports the idea that gay marriage is a state issue, not a federal one. Indeed, reading down the long list of Republicans who apparently agree with the president seems more like a roll call of the Left’s most detested political figures, including Dick Cheney, Meg Whitman, and, yes, even Glenn Beck.
Also sharing Obama’s view on the subject are former first lady Laura Bush, Colin Powell, and Jon Huntsman.
Then of course there is Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the RNC who is in fact openly gay himself and a member of the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sponsor of the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8. Mehlman seems to have an even stronger position than the president, not stopping merely at the politically convenient dismissal that it be left to the states. Instead, as a board member with AFER, he is working actively to ensure that marriage equality be decided on the federal stage.
And if you think the President has evolved a little further since last year, he certainly hasn’t as of two weeks ago when he told George Stephanopoulos that “this is traditionally a state issue” and, that “it will work itself out.” We heard the same reiteration from the White House press Secretary in January.
And yet, what one is sure to hear should these comparisons be brought up, is that these Republicans who claim to support gay marriage are only doing so for political strategy, while our president’s statement was entirely independent of politics, warm-hearted, enlightened and sacrosanct.
To this I say “hah!” Yes, I say it most emphatically. And while this is not out of cynicism toward politics (*cough cough*), the situation begs the question: Why did it take the President so very long to come out with a position that was so very weak? If Hillary Clinton can give a coherent and clear statement of support like the one she gave earlier this month, why do we get such a blurry and non-committal one from her former boss?
In the face of all this nonsense in the Democratic Party, the average American still hears incessantly from the internet and news media that Republicans are the ones who hate gays and gay marriage. Time and again, I have personally heard Republican support of gay issues disparaged by my liberal peers, and gay Republicans in the party ridiculed and demeaned for daring to ascribe to an ideology other than their own.
At a time when over 100 influential Republicans have signed an amicus brief favoring the striking down of Proposition 8; when Republicans like Rob Portman are making the same “evolution” as the President; when a Republican becomes the first gay representative in the Pennsylvania legislature; and at a time when Rand Paul— one of the party’s most socially libertarian members— wins the CPAC straw poll; how can we continue to pretend that one party has a monopoly on gay issues?
The issue of gay marriage truly divides the country. And the split is by no means Democrat and Republican; if this were so, Obama would not have seen it necessary to hold off on a gay marriage stance for so long. This issue is not the possession of one party. I don’t think so, and neither does the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which lists as one of its goals to “strip the partisan veil” from this issue, and has placed Bush appointee Ted Olson as head of the legal team to overturn Prop 8.
Neither party can claim to be the party for gay rights. And, so long as the Democratic Party continues this narrative that Republicans are intolerant and backward on this issue, they will have no credibility. So long as gay Republicans are ridiculed or told that they must hate themselves because of their party identification (much like what is said about Republican women), they will have no credibility.
So, as we all watch with anticipation, awaiting the Supreme Court decision on this issue, let us remember who stands where, and that the “right side of history” is not the dominion of one party or the other.