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  • « Obama on same sex immigration | Main | McCain's non flip-flop on marriage »

    July 09, 2008

    Moving to the middle on marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Michellebarackobama With presidential primary season is behind us, now is the time when the presumptive nominees take aim at independent voters by tacking their way to the political center.

    For gay issues, that typically means we see the Republican nominee rediscovering his “compassionate conservative” side, reaching out through rhetoric if not through an actual thaw in policy positions on gay rights. Remember George W. Bush back in 2000 famously declaring himself “a better man” for having met with the so-called “Austin 12,” a group of gay Republicans who told the Texas governor about how discrimination had impacted their lives.

    On the Democratic side, gay marriage becomes a “Sister Souljah” issue, on which the candidate can prove his centrist credentials by emphasizing the very same opposition to marriage equality that he practically apologized for during the primaries.

    The gay marriage ruling in Massachusetts gave Sen. John Kerry just such an opportunity back in 2004. He leapt on it with gusto, declaring his opposition to the court’s ruling and throwing his support behind efforts there and elsewhere to roll back marriage rights through state constitutional amendments.

    Running mate John Edwards hit mostly the same notes, declaring twice in national television interviews that he and Kerry were of like minds with President Bush on gay marriage, forgetting momentarily that the two Democrats had voted against the president’s notorious federal marriage amendment.

    The ink is barely dry on this year’s party primaries, but it’s curious how the presumptive nominees from both parties are departing from the script written by previous presidential candidates.

    Johncindymccain Initially it seemed John McCain was following closely in W.’s footsteps. News leaked last month that the Arizona senator had a “secret meeting” with the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, who have done their best to smear lipstick on the pig that is McCain’s horrendous gay rights record.

    A few conservative Christian leaders squawked in protest, as they did over W.’s more public gay Republican encounter back in 2000, but McCain proved himself anything but “a better man” in response. It should have been an opportunity for McCain to set his jaw and declare as he has before that he “opposes discrimination in any form” – always curious for a politician who also opposes legislation in any form that’s meant to outlaw said discrimination.

    But instead of tacking to the center, McCain chose to pander to the right – issuing a public statement in favor of the California ballot measure aimed at overturning that state’s landmark gay marriage ruling. In another secret meeting, this time with social conservatives, McCain is said to have promised to increase the volume even more on his gay marriage opposition.

    If McCain lacks the will to withstand even a smattering of criticism from conservatives on gay issues, it bodes very poorly for how a President McCain might be in office.

    On the other side of the aisle, Barack Obama is so far proving he’s no John Kerry on gay marriage. Even though the Illinois senator had pretty much locked up his party’s nomination when the California Supreme Court issued its gay marriage ruling, he didn’t use the occasion to bolster his centrist credentials by declaring himself in opposition.

    Instead, he issued a statement saying he “respects the court’s decision.” Later, when the amendment that would overturn that ruling qualified for the November ballot, Obama declared his opposition to it, in marked contrast to Kerry’s position as the Democratic presidential nominee just four years ago.

    (Not surprisingly, Kerry himself has flip-flopped on the issue. Facing a Senate primary challenger, he came out in opposition to state constitutional amendments banning gay couples from marrying.)

    Even in these early days of the general election, then, the distance between these two presidential candidates on gay rights is already quite striking.

    In previous cycles, the move to the political center has made the Republican candidate more palatable and even encouraged fantasies of a gay-friendly GOP president able to accomplish what a Democrat couldn’t – sort of Nixon goes to China for the gays. We are encouraged in that delusion by how the Democratic candidate has by now already betrayed his vow of unwavering support for us during the primary season.

    This time around, at least so far, John McCain seems more interested in using gays as a political wedge to energize conservatives than he is in reaching out to moderates. In fact, Washington pundit Fred Barnes declared on Fox News declared last week that waving the gay marriage flag was McCain’s last, best hope of winning the White House.

    It’s a curious strategy, given where the population is moving on the issue. Poll after poll shows growing public support for marriage equality, and the power of the issue as a panic button for conservatives fades a bit each and every month that gay couples marry and the sky doesn’t fall.

    Maybe that’s one reason why Obama did not choose gay marriage as a sacrificial lamb on which to prove he’s no liberal. It’s not just that he’s unwilling to pander at our expense, but the center itself has moved on gay marriage.

    And maybe 2008 will be the last presidential race in which we’ll see both major party candidates in opposition to our full marriage equality.

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    Comments

    1. Terry Michael on Jul 9, 2008 5:43:01 PM:

      Very solid analysis Chris. Now, if I could get you to be that rational on something really important, on which you need to do some reading. I'll send links, if you wish. Just let me know. :) (I hear you are headed this way and look forward to seeing you. I could be talking to myself here, but I assume you read your comments. LOL)

    1. Hawyer on Jul 9, 2008 6:26:05 PM:

      Chris - after John Kerry's disgraceful awkward leap onto the homophobe bandwagon - it is refreshing at least to see Obama NOT throw us under the bus and back over us after the primaries.

      As Barny Frank opines: 'Most Americans are not homophobes; they just think they're supposed to be.'

      Maybe this election cycle will - in fact - be the last one where presidential candidates think they're "supposed to be."

    1. gleeindc on Jul 10, 2008 6:13:06 AM:

      While I can appreciate Obama's not moving center on this issue, his change on FISA and his faith-based plans are extremely disappointing to this voter. Once again, I will be voting against a candidate (McCain) in the upcoming election when I had hoped that Obama was a candidate who would finally let me vote for someone. This change was not the kind of change I was hoping Obama would bring.

    1. Allan on Jul 10, 2008 5:11:30 PM:

      Gleeindc, Obama's position on faith-based (AND community-based) initiatives are entirely consistent with his life story, his long-stated views, and those of both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who also endorsed the concept.

      Many of the groups currently receiving such funding under the Bush administration will be ineligible under Obama's proposed rules, and many others, including non-Christian and non-religious affiliated ones, will become eligible.

      With all due respect, perhaps you haven't educated yourself as well about Obama as you could, but there's plenty of time to change that between now and November.

    1. Hawyer on Jul 11, 2008 12:15:13 PM:

      gleeindc on Jul 10, 2008 6:13:06 AM:

      QUOTE: "Once again, I will be voting against a candidate (McCain) in the upcoming election when I had hoped that Obama was a candidate who would finally let me vote for someone."

      Well - join the crowd. I have always maintained that Obama is a weak candidate. The only thing "worser" could be McCain.

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 11, 2008 2:31:24 PM:

      Gosh, gay Democrats have very low standards.

      Celebrating a candidate like Obama who is homophobic in policy but not language -- versus a candidate like Kerry who was homophobic in both -- is damning with faint praise.

      Why not tell Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, independents, and whoever else that if they want our votes, they have to earn it through policy efforts, not pretty language?

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Jul 11, 2008 4:32:45 PM:

      Celebrating a candidate like Obama who is homophobic in policy but not language -- versus a candidate like Kerry who was homophobic in both -- is damning with faint praise.

      Senator Obama is not homophobic. He has interacted with gay individuals at campaign events (Andoni and probably countless others), he appeared on a "gay debate" sponsored by the gay network LOGO, and has announced his support of the CA gay marriage decision, and has never, to my knowledge, sponsored or supported any anti-gay laws, such as the federal marriage amendment. So, how do you get off saying he's "homophobic."

      If what you mean is that he doesn't have UAFA or gay marriage in his Top 10 issues, then that's pretty weak. If you are dissatisfied with Barack Obama, then I invite you to vote for John McCain or Bob Barr.

      You remember Bob Barr, don't you? The Libertarain candidate for president who authored the Defense of Marriage Act. You know, DOMA, one of the most homophobic, anti-gay pieces of federal legislation out there. So Bob Barr authors and sponsors DOMA, but Barack is the homophobic one? And this is to say nothing of John McCain, who you never seem to criticize. Ain't that interesting.

      And, by the way, aren't you also the one that raked Chris over the coals for suggesting that Barr was a serious contender to be the Libertarian candidate for president. You said he didn't know what he was talking about, or something like that? And now, Barr is the candidate, like Chris said? Yeah, um, why don't you go back to square one and rethink some of your "ideas."

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