How do you beat a year like 2013? When it comes to politics, at least, it’s a hard act to follow. The Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, along with the relative ease with which half a dozen states legalized marriage, sent a strong signal that politically the LGBT community had broken firmly into the mainstream.
So can we expect the same for 2014? Probably not the same kind of quantum leap forward. But success has its own momentum, and 2014 looks like it will keep building on the successes we’ve experienced.
Here are Queerty predictions for the political landscape in the coming year.
The seeds for the final SCOTUS marriage case will sprout. One thing about the Supreme Court was clear: a lot was left unclear. Because the justices decided to let individual states decide the issue, the result has been a flood of lawsuits and challenges. At some point, the Court will need to issue a more definitive ruling. The case that will force the Court’s hand will emerge in 2014. The likeliest prospect is a challenge to the marriage ban in Virginia. Stacking the odds in our favor: the lawyers in that case, Ted Olsen and David Boies, were the winning attorneys in the Supreme Court challenge to Proposition 8.
NOM will keep sliding into oblivion. The National Organization for Marriage is on a winning streak–winning for us, that is. NOM lost every marriage battle it was involved in during 2013 and, as if that wasn’t enough, took on yet another losing issue in defending gay conversion therapy. The most recent tax records for the organization show it running a hefty deficit. With no chance of turning the tide for marriage equality, NOM is fast moving from irritant to irrelevancy.
Bakeries will still play politics. Of course, the right-wing freakout over marriage equality will continue. The proxy warrior will continue to be bakeries owned by religious conservatives who think that not selling wedding cakes to same-sex couples is a statement of faith comparable to Martin Luther nailing his theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. Ideas this bad can’t help but spread. Not that we’re into stereotypes, but funny how this type of thing doesn’t seem to happen with florists.
Congress will do nothing for the LGBT community. ENDA? Immigration reform? Fat chance. The Senate has already proven its willingness to take up LGBT issues, but as long as the Republicans control the House, nothing remotely pro-gay is going anywhere. For a Republican leadership looking to hold onto its power, barring an LGBT-related measure from receiving a vote is an easy sop to the hard-core right. The sad part is that there might actually be enough votes to pass ENDA in the House, between Democrats and a handful of sane Republicans. We’ll just never know for sure.
The Supreme Court may undo a lot of progress. Sometime in 2014 the Supreme Court will decide whether corporations have the right to freedom of religious expression. Ostensibly, the case involves the contraception mandate in Obamacare, which is being challenged by a craft store chain owned by a Christian conservative. But if Hobby Lobby wins its case, the logical extension would be to LGBT workplace protections. If a company deems having homosexuality immoral on the basis of Biblical belief, it’s right to discriminate by ignoring existing workplace laws would be guaranteed, The bad news is that the Court has already gone a long way to recognizing companies as the equivalent of people in campaign finance law, so it would be a short leap to extend those protections, at our expense.
The military will start testing how comfortable it is with its marriage regulations. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has established beyond a doubt that the Pentagon will treat same-sex marriages of personnel the way it treats every other marriage. But the culture change that policy requires won’t come easily. It was just a few years ago that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ended, and now the institution is moving ahead faster than the nation as a whole. There’s bound to be plenty of residual homophobia, particularly among career personnel who were trained in the old culture. Expect to hear at least a few examples of lesbian and gay military personnel who ran into roadblocks, if not outright hostility, in their quest to reach the altar.
The GOP will field at least one high-profile gay candidate. The Republican party is desperate to prove to itself and the world that it really, really, really is moderate, despite every shred of evidence to the contrary. What better way to reform its image than to promote a gay candidate in next year’s Congressional mid-term elections. There are already two choices who set the party establishment’s collective heart aflutter: Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio (pictured above) in California. The party will use its gay candidate(s) to prove that it’s a big tent organization. Of course, so is a circus.
The GOP will field at least a dozen off-the-charts homophobic candidates. No circus being complete without clowns, the GOP will promptly undercut its gay candidate by fielding at least a dozen homophobic candidates whose sole purpose for existence is to lower the collective IQ of humanity. We won’t have Michele Bachmann to roll our eyes at any more, but we will still have Steve King, Louie Gohmert, Raul Labrador (pictured above) and host of others. Plus the primary challenges to sitting GOP Congressmen, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, will be coming from candidates so far to the right of the already ultra-conservative incumbent that virtually no statement will ever be crazy enough to be off limits. In at least one case, Republicans will yet again give the nomination to a candidate who is so extreme that the party will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
GOP election gains won’t be enough. The Democrats have a tough election battle ahead in 2014, when the field for Senate races is tilted against them. Still, the odds are likely that they will hold onto the majority in the Senate, if just barely. Even if they don’t, President Obama can veto any loony legislation that conservatives push through Congress and Republicans won’t have enough to override the veto. In other words, if you like the current gridlock, you’ll be happy.
Democrats will start jockeying for 2016 support. Mid-term elections in the second year of a president’s term are never good news for the governing party. So Democrats will be looking to 2016 to keep their spirits up. The next presidential campaign will begin the day after Election Day. Potential candidates will be falling all over themselves to proclaim their support for LGBT issues (and love of LGBT dollars). Joe Biden can claim credit for pushing Obama on marriage equality. Hillary Clinton can talk about her long-standing support of the community. There’s also a cadre of governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Maryland‘s Martin O’Malley, who will take credit for the passage of marriage equality on their watch. Love will be in the air.
Peter Thiel will invest in more antigay libertarianism. The gay PayPal and Facebook billionaire has already given us Ted Cruz. Look for him to throw more money into the coffers of politicians who share his dreams of an unfettered market, even if it comes at the expense of his own community. Perhaps Thiel will give Paul an early boost for his 2016 presidential campaign. After all, Thiel kept the 2012 presidential campaign of Rand’s dad, Ron, afloat singlehandedly. Why not fund the equally offensive son?
The right wing will look to Mother Russia for comfort. The religious right just loves a despot, and they have found their man in Vladimir Putin. Russia will become the Promised Land for the right, as Russia continues its vicious crackdown on the LGBT community. Skinheads, murders, destruction of families, wholesale violation of rights—it’s exactly what the Scott Livelys of the world live for. After tamping things down a little bit for the Winter Olympics, Russia will crank up the homophobia, and cheering them on from the front row (literally, as the World Congress of Families convenes in the Kremlin) will be the worst of the worst from the American religious right.
Catholic bishops will have to decide how much to follow the pope. The U.S. Catholic bishops, who often look a lot like the Tea Party in albs, is going to have a real problem on its hands. The bishops were used to making common cause with antigay evangelical Christians, and now it turns out their new boss, Pope Francis, is, in the words of noted theologian Rush Limbaugh, a Marxist. Francis is especially a weak sister on gay issues, having made it clear he’s not interested in the type of jihad that the American hierarchy has delighted in. New York’s Cardinal Dolan has tried to paper over the differences, but by next year it will be obvious that the differences can’t be papered over. Either the bishops adopt a more relaxed tone (if not policy) on gay issues, or they run the risk of falling out of favor with the Vatican. It will be fun to watch the knots the bishops will tie themselves into in the process.
The religious right will blame at least six natural disasters on LGBTs. Why should this year be any different than last? Tornadoes, typhoons, earthquakes — if there’s bad news, religious conservatives will pin the blame on us. The only thing we’ve yet to be blamed for is global warming, but that’s only because in the conservative universe global warming doesn’t exist.
Two or more new states will embrace marriage equality. Six states approved same-sex marriages in 2013–half before the June Supreme Court decision, and half afterwards. The six weren’t exactly low-hanging fruit, but it will be hard to keep up that rapid pace of adoption. Nonetheless, there are some excellent prospects for 2014: Oregon (where a ballot measure is in the works), New Mexico (which sort of has marriage equality now, but not officially), Michigan (with a pending court case) and Pennsylvania (also with a pending court case). Don’t be surprised if there’s a wildcard in the mix as well. In Ohio, for example, a federal judge has already signaled his displeasure with the state’s marriage ban.