Saturday, October 25, 2003

Turning mole hills into mountains

Gay marriage as a key electoral issue next year? We've got to be kidding, right?
Party strategists said the issue could be a bonanza for mobilizing conservatives to fund campaigns and turn out to vote, particularly in the South. Conservative groups said they plan to challenge candidates to sign a pledge in support of a constitutional amendment precluding gay marriage, then use the results -- along with votes Republicans hope to force in the House and Senate -- as a wedge against Democrats.

Watching the Episcopal Church roiled over whether openly gay bishops should be confirmed, politicians in both parties are beginning to see gay marriage as a potentially key issue for candidates in a 50-50 nation.

Yes, in many senses this is a 50-50 nation, but not in the way that would make gay marriage electorally relevant. If we were a 50-50 nation who basically agreed on everything else but gay marriage, then it might be relevant. But that's not where we are. This is pure and simple demagogue politics based on hate. That's what we're talking about here. All for the sake of getting and keeping a seat at the table of power. Craven.
Focus on the Family, the group led by James Dobson, has begun raising money and excitement about the issue with a mailing warning that "the institution of marriage is about to descend into a state of turmoil unlike any other in human history." He asks for a contribution for a costly battle that "could very well be a turning point in our nation's history."

A House Republican aide said congressional leaders would probably push for a constitutional amendment next year, "if there is a confluence of court rulings and a groundswell of public opinion."

"Some conservatives who usually are reluctant to support constitutional amendments wouldn't stand in the way of the will of the House if courts are distorting the essence and purpose of marriage," the strategist said. "In an election year, it would be good to get folks on the record. Democrats who usually would be tempted to vote against us might join us out of fear of looking extreme."

Turmoil unlike any other in human history? World Wars, sweeping plagues, nuclear holocaust... they've got nothing on letting a few gays marry. Have they become completely unhinged? We're talking about an incredibly tiny percentage of the population being allowed to do something the rest of us are allowed to do (marry) and, here's the kicker, YOU'D NEVER KNOW! That's right, this isn't talking about not allowing gay men or lesbians to walk down the street holding hands or kissing in public because it makes other passers-by feel uncomfortable. It's not about letting gay couples live together. It's about letting the rings they put on their fingers mean something in the eyes of the law. Indeed, turmoil like no other.

But an amendment. What will we tell the children (*note, this is the first time I have ever used this Clinton-Lewinsky parental cry). Imagine your kids learning the amendments... here's the one about speech and religion, the one about fair trials, the one about no slavery, women's voting rights, and presidential succession and incapacity, and the one outlawing gay marriage. For the second time, we would be passing an amendment which restricted the rights of Americans and the last time we did that, we took it back.
Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster, has been conducting focus groups on the subject for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay political organization, and said he finds that middle-of-the-road voters "would prefer to talk about almost any other subject." He said the issue could boomerang on Bush's efforts to come across as moderate.

"Even when they agree on the substance, voters often become uncomfortable with politicians who raise the subject," Garin said. "While Americans certainly don't embrace the idea of gay marriage, they're uncomfortable with identifying themselves with policies that smack of discrimination and unfairness."

Ya think? Suburban America stands proud: "I don't like being a petty bigot, I know it's not right, but that's who I am. Can you please not remind how much of a jackass I am." So much for the idea of the America that overcomes, that raises the standards, improves itself, that strives.


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