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05/09/2014

On the pro-discrimination crowd's Indiana delusions

by Jeremy Hooper

I haven't talked about this in the past three days because I didn't want to help give it the gravity that the anti-LGBT crowd so desperately wants to force upon it. But I'd feel remiss if I let the week go by without at least touching on this week's hilariously overstated attempt to pretend that the "protect marriage" movement has something resembling momentum.

It happened in Indiana, where a whopping two—count 'em—two Republican state lawmakers who had helped keep the state's proposed marriage amendment from moving forward lost their primary races. To hear the pro-discrimination crowd tell it, you'd think they had just managed to impeach President Obama because of his marriage view and reinstate DOMA as an associated demand. The headlines were laughably broad:

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I guess I get why they'd try to mine a major win out of a nothing-burger, considering this movement has experienced nothing but loss for the past two years. But on the momentum scale, this was barely a lean, much less a step.

For starters, neither of the two House members, Kathy Heuer of Columbia City or Rebecca Kubacki of Syracuse, is actually a big advocate for marriage equality. Both opposed this year's attempt to change the constitution on largely procedural and/or practical grounds. So it's not like the FRC and NOM crowd picked off two modern day Harveys of the Milk variety. Instead, they helped—maybe helped, a little—to knock off two Republicans who lean toward the more moderate appetizer table at the state party convention. I'll let the state and national GOP debate whether or not that's a good thing.

Which segues into the next point: that this was simply a primary. NOM, in particular, loves to crow when it sees something it considers to be a victory at the primary level. Only thing? Often times, this leads to a Democratic win in the fall. In many cases (New York, most notably), NOM has actually hurt the GOP, at least in terms of numbers, by helping to end the political careers of moderates who might have had a chance in the general election and replacing them with ideologues who end up losing. Whether that will be the case here remains to be seen. The winning candidates here actually don't seem to be the kinds of candidates that the "pro-family" movement would've chosen their late-in-the-game strategy was just defeat, not defeat-and-replace. But whether the alternate GOP candidates win or lose come autumn, winning within a party primary, where turnout is miscible (in IN, there was no statewide race to boost turnout) and die-hards are easy to rally, is not the same as making an impact with the general public, state or nationally.

Then there's the matter of issues. Almost anyone who knows anything about these races will tell you that there were many issues that led up to the ballot box. Marriage might have been one of them, but it was far from the only one. Kubacki, in particular, seems to credit a difficult vote she took on daycare reform as a big reason for her loss. Common Core also seems to have been a huge issue in both races. Plus lobbies, like the powerful gun folks (boom boom; bang bang), got involved and helped put the winning candidates over the electoral hump. It's easy for the NOMs of the world to think that marriage is on every Americans' mind on a 24/7 basis, but that simply isn't the case.

Then there's the facts of who else did and didn't lose. State senator John Waterman (R-Shelburn), who voted for the marriage ban, lost his primary. Rep Casey Cox (R-Fort Wayne), who voted the same way as Kubacki and Heuer on marriage, survived his primary despite experiencing the same attacks from the NOM crowd. Now, not to be hypocritical, let me reinforce that both of these races surely came down to much, much, much more than their marriage votes. But it is hypocritical for the anti-LGBT folks to loft up these other supposed wins while overlooking what was, even through the myopic lens they are using, a mixed bag of a night.

This attempt to turn a "whatever" into a "CAN YOU F***ING BELIEVE IT?!?!!?!?!?" is what these folks do these days. It's kind of like when the Illinois legislature temporarily delayed marriage equality (it has since passed) and NOM reacted with confetti. Seriously—con-frigging-fetti. They do this sort of because their whole movement requires an ever-deepening illusion in order to sustain itself. Both politically and culturally, they are losing and losing BIG TIME. When you are a special interest that so fully hones in on one issue that ends up losing for you, it's always bad for your ability to stay relevant. But in this case, NOM and the like are not only losing, but Americans are also starting to understand how deeply offensive their push for inequality really is. It's not just politically wrong—it's personally insulting. And painful. And mean. People are starting to wise up to that fact, which is terrible to NOM's bottom line, political access, and reputation.

They have to glom onto something—the gloom is threatening to consume their whole charade.

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