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07/03/2008

Aren't principled legacies worth the risk?

by Jeremy Hooper

Democratic marriage position, circa 2008:

(a) Be sure to publicly assert that you personally believe marriage to be "between a man and a woman" (whether you actually believe this or not)
(b) Yet still oppose any and all anti-gay constitutional amendments.

Picture 1-178Arizona governor Janet Napolitano is the latest to take the politically pragmatic yet thoroughly un-Democratic stance:

"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman," ..."I don't think the constitutional amendment is necessary. The voters of Arizona will have a chance to decide this. Personally, I'm going to oppose it. We already have a statute that defines marriage. The courts have already said the statute is constitutional."
Governor: Gay marriage referendum unnecessary [AZ Republic]

Look, we get it -- support for marriage equality is still seen as dangerous. But we can't help but wonder: In twenty years time, will they title this chapter of their memoirs, "The gays I threw under the bus out of electoral fears," "I forfeited an opportunity to help change the national conversation," or "Eh, I knew most of them would never vote Republican anyway, so why risk it?" Because let's be honest here: "I Had A Dream" is already out of far too many Dems' grasps!

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Your thoughts

I guess I don't really have that much of a problem with this as a stand and if we accept it, it may be the key to winning more approval at the ballot box.

To explain, let me compare a political approach to this issue similar to abortion.

Many people are uncomfortable with abortion. I am one of them. If my teenage daughter became pregnant, I would hope she would not choose abortion. However, if I ever had to vote on the issue, I would never vote to restrict a woman's right to choose. Why? Because its none of my damn business what somebody I don't even know does with their life and it would be terribly wrong of me to force my personal views into a very huge, yet personal decision that someone else needs to make.

Now lets move back to gay marriage. Lots of people are uncomfortable with gay marriage. They will always be uncomfortable with gay marriage. They have been raised that way, the church tells them to be that way and they will never lose that feeling of discomfort. Between now an November, we may not completely change the hearts of enough in California to win. In fact, we will probably only change the hearts of a few. But unlike abortion (and this is the key here), there is this mindset with gay marriage that if you personally don't like it so much, then you should vote that way and prevent gay people from marrying. Why?

I think the path to success here is to suggest to people that despite their discomfort, the notion that 2 gay people marrying is a threat to our nation is ludicrous. That it is OK to feel uncomfortable with it yet wrong to force personal discomfort onto the lives and families of others. That like abortion, simply not totally approving of it doesn't mean you should act to stop it.

I remember the pro-choice people viewing people like Mario Cuomo as allies when he said he was "personally opposed but...".

I think reaching out to people in the middle and bringing them to the place where Janet Napolitano or Barack Obama are at is a very reasonable and winning strategy. It would be nice if everyone totally embraced gay couples the way they do straight ones. A generation from now we will be closer to that. But gay people and their children need the benefits of marriage now and I'm willing to team up with, rather than criticize anyone who will not act to stop us.

Posted by: Steve - Geneva, IL | Jul 3, 2008 1:11:05 PM

Steve: The frustrating thing for gay people is that we have had almost none on our Dems pushing back on this issue over the past decade. Through their hesitancy, they have forfeited their opportunity to shape the conversation on this issue. The elected voices of the political right have not been shot down by the elected voices of the political left.

We have and are continuing to make HUGE progress. However, we have done so with only a scattering of support from our should-be political allies. That's sad. Especially when it is obvious that many of them do support marriage equality in private.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 3, 2008 1:23:22 PM

I find that frustrating too. But not as frustrating as not being able to file taxes jointly. As not having inheritance rights. As having to spend thousands of extra dollars in legal mumbo jumbo and hope that my children have the same level of legal security as those of straight people. I could go on and on.

I want the dems to speak out, I want everyone to k'vel at a gay wedding the way they do at a straight one, but mostly I want what is right and just for me, my family, and others like us. If I can have that, I can wait for the opinions and hearts of others to come around.

The ballot box is a private place. The closeted gay marriage supporters can come out there, and right now, that's what matters most.

Posted by: Steve - Geneva, IL | Jul 3, 2008 1:35:53 PM

Of course I understand what you're saying. Obviously we all want the things you mention. Hell, that's why I fight for them every single day of my life. But my point is that constant "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman" lines -- stances that are dollar-for-dollar matches of the far-right's code-wording -- have not helped us obtain the things you (and I) seek. Shutting down this amendment is not grant AZ gay couples these rights and benefits (especially when Napolitano also cites the already-in place law barring same-sex marriages as a reason why the amendment is not necessary).

There is obviously a need to be politically smart. There is also a very valid need to stand up for those citizens who have had their voices stifled and their lives threatened for far too long. Too few are doing. I feel that the role of the advocate who is tired of all this is to say to the politician" "Okay, you're not willing to take a stand for civil liberties. Fair enough. But here's why you really should take the next step." if we do not, who will?

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 3, 2008 2:18:55 PM

I see this luke-warm support as very detrimental. I understand Steve's point about the importance of allies but in effect the democrats in this case are doing the exact opposite of what they are doing in the abortion example.

In the abortion example, they are saying, I'm personally opposed but publicly feel that this is an individual's choice.

In the gay marriage example, they are saying, "privately I support it but publicly I don't feel the same-sex marriage issue should be imposed on straight people." This much becomes clear because of the way they tap dance.

Cuomo's opinion in the abortion case is very straightforward. He took a principled stand about individual freedoms trumping personal beliefs. The deomcrats in gay marriage spout technical points of law: "we have laws to protect us already" or "this doesn't rise to the level of an amendment", etc.

In essense, the deomcrats tacitly give credence to the point of view that this isn't an individual freedom because they are so wishy-washy on it. I'd much rather them say "my personal beliefs are irrelevant. This is about all americans being given equal consideration under the law and supporting same-sex marriage is the right way to insure that."

Posted by: Ed | Jul 3, 2008 3:04:55 PM

The Democrats, tragically, don't have a set of balls (or tits) in the entire party. I wrote a letter to them last night, thanking them for their politically expedient support during the primary season, apologizing for not being part of a constituency big and rich enough to keep their attention during their cowardly, capitulating "march toward the center."

Posted by: Larry | Jul 3, 2008 3:16:07 PM

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