Republicans and Gay Marriage

As I'm sure you've heard, New York just joined the ranks of Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington D.C., to become the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.   The State owes the passage of this bill in significant part to four Republican senators who broke party ranks to extend marriage rights to gays.  And they did it with some real home-grown flair.  After having first voted "no" to gay marriage in 2009, 64 year-old Republican Senator Roy McDonald explained of his change of heart in this memorable, sincere, and totally badass way:
Roy McDonald knows the "F" word.
"You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I'm trying to do the right thing, and that's where I'm going with this."
But now these four senators are facing severe backlash from the Republican party, so much so that their vote for gay marriage might have cost all of them their jobs in the next election.  And while it's unfortunate that it has to be considered "brave" for a Republican to vote this way, this bravery shouldn't be overlooked by those of us for whom supporting gay marriage has always been an easy and obvious choice. 

The question I pose now is: why do Republicans insist on fighting gay marriage in the face of its inevitability?  In twenty years (and possibly sooner than that) preventing gay marriage is going to be as archaic and universally despicable as preventing civil rights for women and Blacks once was.  Is it just that Republicans lack the foresight (and hindsight) to analogize these issues?  Is it misunderstanding and homophobia?  Is it an utterly misplaced reliance on scripture (watch the liberating badass-ery below)? Is it just plain stubbornness?


Remember when Trent Lott, the long-time Republican Senate Majority leader, resigned his leadership position in the wake of his Strom Thurmond comments?  Allow me to refresh your memory: at Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, Lott said,
"I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of him. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." 
The problem, of course, was that Thurmond was a segregationist whose Senatorial legacy included the longest filibuster of all time (over 24 hours) against the Civil Rights Act.  Regardless of whether the comment was the result of some latent bigotry or merely a poorly chosen attempt to compliment to a senile old coot (think your racist granddad), everyone was pissed. In the wake of the criticism that followed, Lott was forced to resign his position.  But what's interesting is that the charge to formally oust him was lead by conservative groups, most memorably William F. Buckley's The National Review.  It seemed unfathomable for Republicans to allow someone who would even casually, accidentally imply an endorsement of segregation to be a party leader.  Republicans, have you no memory?

So, I want to congratulate the four brave Republicans who all essentially (and at least one literally) said, "Fuck it, let's do what's right."  And of course there are other Republicans like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (dismissively called a RINO by his party -- "Republican In Name Only") who aggressively lobbied in support of gay marriage behind the scenes.  But to the social conservative hold-outs, I say: learn your lesson from Trent Lott.  Hang up the hairshirt of fighting gay marriage, if for no other reason than so you don't embarrass and disappoint your kids when they ask you how you voted when it was your state's turn.

As a final note, when asked if he feared for his job in the wake of his "yes" vote this weekend, Senator James Alesi said, "I also have to believe that if I'm supporting a significant percentage of my constituency that want this, that I will gain their support even though I'm losing the other."  So, I'm appealing to you New Yorkers with even an inkling of Libertarian-leanings: don't forget these guys come election day.

(For more of my ranting on this subject, check out this post, and this one.)

Update: Scott in the comments reminded me of the Log Cabin Republicans, a grassroots resource for small-government Republicans who support gay rights.  Visit their site here: Log Cabin Republicans.
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Matt!
AUTHOR
June 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM delete

Far-left commie that you know I am, I actually fear the day that Republicans wise up and drop the social issues. I think that a fiscally conservative, morally agnostic Republican party would be an unstoppable force in American politics. Ironically, it looks like the Democratic party will likely make it to that same platform first.

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
June 28, 2011 at 10:18 AM delete

NY was the last state to allow for no-fault divorce, and it only did so recently. No-fault divorce plus gay marriage means we can hope for developing case law that doesn't screw over the "husband" so much. In this and in other ways (e.g. taxes) recognition of gay marriage will further erode the gender identity of citizens under the law. Everyone should pause and reflect whether this is necessarily a good thing.

You may worry about not disappointing your children with how you vote on gay marriage, but you might also worry about how you are going to raise that child in a world that truly sees no difference between boys and girls.

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Matt!
AUTHOR
June 29, 2011 at 9:57 AM delete

"...but you might also worry about how you are going to raise that child in a world that truly sees no difference between boys and girls."

Anonymous, I would venture to say most of us who support LGBTQ rights don't consider this as problematic as you apparently do.

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Scott
AUTHOR
June 29, 2011 at 4:50 PM delete

I'd point out that a reason the GOP is quicker to distance itself from apparent racism is that the party is often _incorrectly_ identified as the party that endorsed segregation. Segregationists were generally Southern Democrats, and the Republicans were the ones who pushed the Civil Rights Act. Thurmond converted to the GOP after the fact, so I think it's critical that the Party came out swinging when his segregationist (Democrat) roots came back up.

That said, totally agree, and am contemplating donating to Log Cabin Republicans.

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Scott H
AUTHOR
June 29, 2011 at 5:07 PM delete

Anonymous---

You're implying that there is an intrinsic problem with a far less gender specific culture; I don't get it. What is the harm, exactly?

Scott H

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Alison
AUTHOR
June 29, 2011 at 5:21 PM delete

I had an argument with "Anonymous" yesterday on this subject. I think at the core his problem is that he's confusing sexual orientation with gender. Sexual orientation is genetic and immutable; the Constitution and case law interpreting it are clear that we cannot discriminate against people because of their immutable characteristics. Gender identity, on the other hand, is cultural and malleable. Most importantly, there is not necessarily a connection between the two. Extending a civil right to people based on their genetic sexual orientation isn't going to blur or change current social definitions gender roles. For an excellent walk through of just how quickly and dramatically gender definitions change, read this article: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html?device=other&c=y

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meghan
AUTHOR
July 1, 2011 at 10:55 PM delete

This post was interesting to me because it gives me perspective. When I teach the kids about slavery, civil rights, and women voting, they don't understand how it could have ever not been accepted. And it's hard to explain it to them (it's even hard for me to wrap my mind around), but the idea that in 20 years the issue of gay marriage will be as archaic as those ideas helps me understand how scary life must have been like when slavery was being fought against, women weren't able to vote, and all people weren't equal by law. Because I see people against gay marriage and how sold they are on this idea, and I am amazed at their seriousness. Hm. Thanks for the perspective!

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