For so long being only mildly gay friendly, s Democratic politicians now find themselves behind the wave of American support for marriage equality. And as we approach November’s mid-term elections, they must really be regretting their previous stances on same-sex marriage, right?
Once upon a time, Democrats were in the clear, writes Paul Waldman in American Prospect.
For a long time, Democrats didn’t even need to have a position on same-sex marriage. It was something only anti-gay crusaders talked about, a boogeyman supposedly lying at the bottom of a slippery slope of gay rights. If we made it illegal to fire someone because of their sexuality, the next thing you know, two men will be allowed to get married! Gay-rights activists didn’t want to talk about marriage much in public, seeing it as a long-term goal best put off until public opinion underwent a great deal of change.
And then Jack’s beanstalk started to grow, or something equally plausible.
But when Howard Dean surged to the front of the pack in the 2004 presidential primaries, the fact that as governor of Vermont he had signed the country’s first civil-unions law was used as evidence of what a radical left-winger he supposedly was. Then came the Massachusetts ruling and the rogue San Francisco marriages. Democratic politicians were forced, many for the first time, to articulate just where they stood on same-sex marriage.
[…] Yet the more we debated the marriage issue, the worse the standard Democratic position looked. It now seems logically inconsistent and without the courage of its convictions. Once you start probing it and looking to apply the moral principles on which it would claim to be based, it falls apart like tissue paper.
When your average Democratic politician is trying to explain his position on this issue, you can usually see the discomfort in his face. The assumption I’ve always made (and I’m sure most conservatives agree) is that the politician actually believes in marriage equality but is afraid of the political consequences. So he talks about how he believes we’re all equal, except in marriage, and hopes no one will ask him exactly why gay people aren’t quite equal enough to have their unions given the same status as those of straight people. If someone does, he rambles about tradition and his upbringing and religion, and can’t quite come up with a rational reason why he believes what he does (you might remember John Edwards finally concluding, “I’m just not there yet,” which presumably meant he eventually would be).
So certainly the Dems are going to face backlash over their straddling of the issue, right? Nah, and they’ve got Republicans to thank.
Fortunately for Democrats, it doesn’t look like their opponents are going to be asking them a lot of questions about marriage equality this year. There may be some hot Republican-on-Republican action — in GOP primaries, where one candidate accuses the other of not being tough enough on gays — but it doesn’t seem that the issue is going to be that big in the general election.