My favorite newspaper is The Onion because their satire typically nails truth’s core in a manner the “respectable” media simply can’t. My favorite article from them was a couple years ago about a husband and wife in Montana that divorced because they felt “threatened” by gay marriage. In their inimitable manner, The Onion illustrated just how asinine the debate over gay marriage truly is. The notion that one can feel “threatened” by gay marriage or equal protection under the law for an entire community is utterly moronic.
Whenever I read or hear about some Christian reactionary protesting the gay community’s quest for a basic right such as visitation access to their partner in a hospital, I immediately recall Shakespeare’s classic line, “me thinks you doth protest too much.” As David Brock exposed in his tell all book several years ago, “Blinded by the Right: The Conscious of An Ex-Conservative,” the Republican Party is compromised of many closet homosexuals, who profit from a cottage industry of hate spewing homophobic rhetoric. Much of the Republican Party is financed by efforts to deny homosexuals health benefits, equal protection under the law as workers, and promote a culture of violence against them in the name of God. In the Republican mindset, God only loves members of their constituency and gays are on the outside. Unless of course they conceal their orientation and actively work to promote the conservative cause, as David Brock used to.
While interning at the corporate library of American Express in 2001, I came across one of their internal marketing intelligence reports that illustrate America’s hypocrisy regarding gays. American Express noted that contrary to public perception, homosexuals are mainstream contributors of society. Typically well-credentialed and earning incomes commiserate of high skilled professionals. American Express therefore wanted to develop a marketing campaign that appealed to homosexuals to earn their business without offending “middle America.” In other words, “we want your money but we don’t want to be associated with you.” Amex feared the sort of reaction that bedeviled Ford Motor Co. years later when Christian groups organized a boycott of the company for daring to promote themselves in a gay pride magazine.
A contributing factor for American Express’s ambivalence is that Democrats have not aggressively and unapologetically advocated for human rights. The time has long past for the Democrats to stop hiding underneath their covers and tell it the way it is. This entire debate needs to be reframed as defending human rights instead of promoting “the gay agenda.” Well, once and for all what the hell is the gay agenda? Too many Americans perceive it as an unruly mob riding down their suburban streets on floats, dressed in drag and chanting “we’re queer, we’re here, get used to it!” In reality the so- called “gay agenda” is about human rights and those who oppose human rights in the United States need to be put on the defensive forthwith.
That means the Democrats have to cease their hypocrisy about coveting the gay vote while simultaneously supporting “state’s rights.” Human rights are universal and too important to be left to the machinations of state and local governments. An example of this was recently reported by a Green activist Alaskan blog called, The Ester Republic. Alaska’s state legislature is currently proposing an amendment to their constitution, that would not only ban gay marriage but also not recognize any benefits for heterosexual couples not legally married. So when Democrats declare they’re personally for civil unions but willing to defer the issue to states, they’re giving carte blanche to state legislatures such as Alaska's to tread upon human rights. How is that any better than states rights advocacy that supported segregationist policies decades ago?
Even worse, deferring the matter to state governments implies there is something inherently wrong with supporting equal protection under the law for millions of gays. The Democrats are conveying a mealy mouthed rationale that isn’t fooling anyone: “if you the good people of Kansas or Wisconsin prefer to trample on your fellow citizens feel free. Understand we’re going to throw some rhetorical crumbs to the gay community because we’re pandering for their votes but you don’t need to worry that we support their agenda.” Has it worked? On a national level the Democrats continue to be pummeled on values even as there is no practical difference between them and the Republicans on the issue because both parties are deferring to the states.
Yes, the Republicans supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the Federal level but that never had a chance to pass anyway. The real action is taking place on the local level and the trend is disturbing. Once upon a time this country had “slave” states and “free” states and it appears we’re headed towards “tolerant” states and “homophobic” states under the law. That is not acceptable. It’s wonderful some mayors are presiding over gay marriages while different states have codified civil unions. But suppose your roots are in a community that doesn’t provide equal protection under the law? We're supposed to be one country.
My own attitude about this issue evolved over time. I grew up in a suburb that is best described as cookie cutter white bread land. I later attended a small liberal arts college containing a high percentage of homosexuals. Somehow, even at college I remained apathetic about homosexual politics. On an abstract level, I suppose I supported equal protection under the law for gays but on a personal level it had little impact on my life. Indeed, the only extent it mattered to me personally was that lesbians were not eligible for my pursuit! However, after college I became friends with someone I worked with at an employment agency. He described to me his traumatic journey to fit in with mainstream society when he simply wasn’t wired that way. Whenever he dated a girl in high school he found the female body unappealing. He grew up in South Carolina and was afraid to reveal his true self. The one impression from him that always remained with me was how he and his partner resembled every other couple I had ever met. When I last saw them they were considering their future plans and very much hoped to adopt children. After meeting them the issue was no longer an abstraction for me.
On a political level, Democratic politicians treat gay issues as part of a grand political conundrum to be finessed. Some Democrats are hoping to replicate the success of politicians on a local level such as Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and focus solely on meat and potato issues while adopting the cultural mores of a particular region. That only works for so long however. The Republicans will always engage the values debate on a national level and the Democrats will never outflank them on the right. Nor should they try. Straddling the center is transparent on a moral issue such as human rights and can’t be finessed. It certainly didn’t work for John Kerry in 2004 who boasted that his position on gay marriage matched that of Vice President Cheney’s.
I’m pragmatic. I accept that Democrats have to move to the cultural center on issues such as guns and religion in public life. On human rights however the Democrats need to learn that strength stems from authenticity. The party will win more respect if it doesn’t back down and unequivocally states that human rights are universal and not to be trampled upon in state capitals. Equal protection under the law on the Federal level for gays should be the unequivocal position of Democrats seeking higher office. Such a posture will demonstrate toughness and show that Democrats are a party one can count on in a foxhole. When attacked for supporting the “gay agenda,” the response is easy: “I support human rights. Why don’t you?” Anything less is immoral.
SIDEBAR: Today's posting just became a recommended diary on Daily Kos in case anyone is interested in reviewing the growing number of comments posted there. I'm gratified because I consider this issue to be vitally important and in need of maximum exposure.