March 22, 2008
The gay case for McCain
Posted by: Chris
Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic is making the case that John McCain wouldn't be "so bad" for gay voters, no matter who the Democrats nominate. I've known and respected Jamie for years and published his columns in the Blade when he was still a student at Yale, but he's trying way too hard here.
Much of what he argues will sound familiar to those who remember the Log Cabin Republicans' spirited defense of the Arizona senator, especially his "courageous" opposition to a federal marriage amendment, Let's remember that McCain attacked the measure as "un-Republican" because it violated states' rights -- a principle with a dubious civil rights history -- and not because it wrote intolerance into the U.S. Constitution.
Jamie tries papering over McCain's unprincipled flip-flop on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance" who had no place in the GOP. "Sure, McCain spoke at Falwell's Liberty University in 2006," he writes, "but he didn't pander." Oh really? Well it was certainly no random graduation appearance:
McCain's appearance came eight months after the founder of the Moral Majority visited him at his Senate office in what both men said was an effort to put their contentious past behind them. This weekend, Falwell rolled out the red carpet for his old adversary, assembling about 150 church leaders from around the country for a Friday night reception and later hosting a small, private dinner for the senator.
This was purely politics, breaking bread with the conservative leader he once called "evil." Asked on "Meet The Press" last year whether he still believed Falwell was an "agent of intolerance," McCain said: "No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on."
Jamie imagines that McCain's supposed hostility toward the religious right -- certainly kept well-disguised in recent years -- means he won't "feel the need to appease the anti-gay wing of his party." And yet there he was in 2006, endorsing Arizona's draconian anti-gay ballot measure, which not only banned gay marriage but also civil unions and limited domestic partnerships.
Kirchick tries to excuse McCain's support for the Arizona measure -- historic for being the only gay marriage initiative rejected by voters -- by reminding us that John Kerry had also backed state amendments banning gay marriage. Then again, Kerry was one of a handful of senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, supported civil unions including federal recognition, not to mention ENDA, hate crimes and repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." And last I checked, Kerry was the Democrats' nominee in 2004, not 2008, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are on record opposing even limited state marriage amendments, much less Arizona's bigoted overreach.
Kirchick cites several examples of McCain's personal comfort around gay people, and no doubt that's correct. But we've been here before, haven't we? Those who knew George W. Bush were universal in praising his comfort with gay people, in and out of politics, and yet look where it got us. Since when is the absence of personal discomfort in the presence of homosexuals somehow a qualification for the presidency?
Whatever gay Republicans and libertarians may think of McCain's views outside the realm of civil rights, the unmistakable reality is this: McCain's hostility to absolutely any form of legal protection whatsoever for gay relationships is consistent with his opposition to absolutely any form of protection for gays individually. That includes workplace protection, service in the military and even hate crime laws.
McCain's gay allies may be relieved that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee didn't win the GOP nomination, but McCain's political record remains one of ardent gay rights opposition -- worse even that George W. Bush when he ran in 2000. This is progress?
(Photo of McCain and Falwell via New York Times)
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