Frank Rich Calls Straight Liberals Fair-Weather Friends To LGBT Movement

When the news came last June that the New York State Senate had voted to legalize same-sex marriage, I was at a dinner party that felt like New Year’s Eve, only with genuine emotions. Everyone at the table—straight, gay, young, old—was elated. Later, as my wife and I headed home past an Empire State Building ablaze in the rainbow colors of Pride Week, we were still euphoric at having witnessed one of those rare nights when history is made. Same-sex-marriage adversaries constantly proclaim that gay unions threaten “traditional” marriage. But in truth, it’s a boon to discover that a right you’ve taken for granted is so treasured by others that they’ll fight to get their fair share of its rewards—and its trials…

Each day the gay-rights bandwagon attracts unexpected recruits in the vein of the legal odd couple of Ted Olson and David Boies. No less a pitchman than Lloyd Blankfein is making public-service ads for same-sex marriage. Bill O’Reilly is defending Ellen ­DeGeneres from American Family Association vigilantes demanding that JCPenney ditch her as a spokesperson. Being in with the gays, it’s clear, has become a savvy (if not necessarily selfless) way to attach a halo to almost any troubled brand, from Goldman Sachs to some precincts of the Rupert Murdoch empire (though not the New York Post or Wall Street Journal, the only major dailies in the state that disdained large front-page headlines after the Albany victory)…

In the outpouring of provincial self-congratulation that greeted the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, some of the discomforting history that preceded that joyous day has been rewritten, whitewashed, or tossed into a memory hole. We—and by we, I mean liberal New Yorkers like me, whether straight or gay, and their fellow travelers throughout America—would like to believe that the sole obstacles to gay civil rights have been the usual suspects: hidebound religious leaders both white and black, conservative politicians (mostly Republican), fundamentalist Christian and Muslim zealots, and unreconstructed bigots. What’s been lost in this morality play is the role that many liberal politicians and institutions have also played in slowing and at some junctures halting gay civil rights in recent decades.

It was, after all, the trustees of the Smithsonian Institution, not a Bible Belt cultural outpost, who bowed to pressure from the militant Catholic League just fifteen months ago to censor the work of a gay American artist who had already been silenced, long ago, by AIDS. It was a Democratic president, with wide support from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who in 1996 signed the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the most discriminatory laws ever to come out of Washington. It’s precisely because of DOMA that to this day same-sex marriages cannot be more than what you might call placebo marriages in the eight states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized them. DOMA denies wedded same-sex couples all federal benefits—some 1,000, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ programs—and allows the other 42 states to ignore their marriages altogether.

Frank Rich reminds us that liberals have not always been on the right side of history when it comes to gay rights, in New York magazine.

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  • Justin in Oaklawn, Dallas, Texas

    You can goof on it as a “Debbie Downer move”, or you can see this article as what it is – a reality check on drinking too much Democratic Kool-Aid. It’s no accident that both Gingrich and Santorum have been able to accurately point to Obama as having the same position as their own on marriage equality – AGAINST.
    I’m a Democrat, and I’m a realist. Just because someone has the same political opponents as me doesn’t make them my friend…

  • Right Is Right

    I’m very impressed (and surprised as hell) that Queerty posted this article, in which the author acknowledges discrimination against us by Clinton, Democrats, and blacks. And here I thought Queerty was all PC all the time.

    Mr. Rich is right: The (D) or (R) after a politician’s name means little; it’s the actions that count.

  • Hyhybt

    The title Queerty has put on this article seems to me not to fit the contents. It seems much more like, “Don’t forget, we used to have *everybody* against us. Those who are for us now just took less time to be convinced.”

  • cwm

    Frank Rich is totally “establishment”; not at all a rabble-rouser

    take that as you will. worth mentioning though.

  • tjr101

    No one ever said the Democrats are perfect on lgbt rights. But they are a helluva lot better than Republicans, you just have to look at the state legislatures that are passing SSM and the governors who are signing it into law.
    This article deserves a “meh” response.

  • Chuck

    Frank Rich is probably the best writer in America today. But would DOMA be signed by a Dem president or supported by Dems today? No. Would it be supported by Republicans? It already is.

  • christopher di spirito

    I am a huge fan of Frank Rich. He’s quite correct. Many of our so-called “liberal friends” have never lifted a finger or written a check to support our community.

  • comus

    Why does “Debbie Downer” often suggest a lack of understanding on the part of those who use it?

  • Cam

    This article has very valid points.

    The problem with the people saying that this means gays should consider voting republican is this.

    You have the choice between hiring two different handymen.

    1. The first one (Democrat) will sit around and do nothing until you get in his face, and yell and threaten to cancel the check you gave him…then he will reluctantly get up and do some of the work you hired him to complete.

    2. The second one (GOP) will hit you in the face with a board when you walk by him.

    So yes, ABSOULUTLY the Democrats haven’t been nearly the advocates that they could have been or we would have liked, but the GOP is actively attacking us and seeking to remove the rights we do have.

    Sure Obama says he’s against gay marraige, BUT he also said he was against Prop 8, and he signed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Would Santorum or Romney do the same? Of course not.

  • Jesus

    @Justin in Oaklawn, Dallas, Texas:
    Name what other president has done more for the LGBT community than Mr. Obama? True he may hold public positions that are politically expedient but he has done a lot, maybe not as much as we would want but let me assure you no Republican, or Clinton would have done as much.

  • jason

    Democrats only want our votes. They manipulate us into believing they like us. I won’t be voting for Obama this year.

  • SwimmerB

    Wow – not voting for Obama this fall is like voting for one of the clowns on the other side – each and every one of the republican candidates has a rabidly anti-gay agenda to satisfy their right-wing wackos. Obama may not be perfect (who is?) – but he is light years ahead of the monsters on the other side.

  • Tea & A

    @SwimmerB: What, specifically, has Romney done to harm us? And don’t use his religion to rationalize your comment, I want specifics. Please provide.

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    @Tea & A:
    Here is Romney’s current platform regarding LGBTs:
    He defends Defense of Marriage Act.
    He supports a federal amendment that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
    He supports Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
    He opposes federal employment nondiscrimination.
    He signed the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) pledge.
    He is not in favor of civil unions if they are equivalent to marriage, but favors a form of domestic partnership or contractual relationship.
    He believes that adoption agencies should discriminate against same-sex couples.

    He didn’t always have these stances, but this is his current platform for presidency..

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    BTW, here’s what Rich has to say about Republicans:
    “We now have a base of the Republican party that is so radical that they can be pandered to by calls for elimination of public education…the hypocrisy…someone like Ken Mehlman is in a long tradition, I hate to say it, of Republicans who were closeted homosexuals in power, actually enabling homophobic policies and in some cases the real demonization of gay people. And then as soon as they’re away from it…then he comes out and does the right thing. Comes out as gay, but also comes out of those policies. But where was he when it really mattered within his own party?…There’s a real pathological disconnect and they’ve really got to be called on it.”

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