We’re starting to feel like Harold Ford Jr. is the uninvited guest at the seated dinner party that is the U.S. Senate race in New York. Nobody really wants him around, but because he rolls up is a Bentley (read: he’s loaded!) and brings everyone a Starbucks gift card (read: he’ll hand out statements just to please) we let him stay, but not for dessert. He’s threatening the seat held by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who as senator did more for LGBT equality than even her predecessor Hillary Clinton. And now that Ford flip-flopped (evolved?) on his gay marriage stance, we’re being fed the humanistic reason for doing so: his wife told him a story about gay people he never met.
Emily Ford, 29, is a stunning woman with Hollywood good looks. And whether the story she told Stephen Colbert is true or not, one thing is clear: Like her ambitious husband, she’s got a line for everything. This is okay, because it’s how politics works, and likable wives of male politicians are invaluable assets, but it’s Emily who’s being used to defuse critics of Ford on his sudden support of gay marriage — perhaps because Harold couldn’t do it himself on Colbert’s show. The Times replays the interview (that we somehow missed):
On the marriage issue, Ms. Ford seems to have played a role in changing her husband’s mind. In an interview on “The Colbert Report,” Mr. Ford credited his wife with influencing his views, an acknowledgment that pleased her.
Ms. Ford said in her interview the other day that she had several conversations with her husband about gay marriage. She told him about a gay step-uncle who had died of AIDS and a gay aunt, both of whom were in loving, committed relationships. “Harold never met my uncle or my aunt, but he knows how important this is to me,” Ms. Ford said.
And presto, Ford is a gay marriage supporter.
Now, we don’t know when Emily told her husband about these two important people in her life that Harold never got around to meeting (the pair married in 2008), but of course this happened after Ford, running in 2006 to be a U.S. senator from Tennessee, proudly announced his “No” vote on gay marriage.
At the heart of door-to-door campaigns to convince regular folks to support gay marriage is a singular message: Everybody knows a gay person, and doing things like supporting Prop 8 is a vote against the rights of somebody in your inner circle. Perhaps Harold Ford Jr. finally recognizes this now.
Or perhaps he just recognizes the political advantage of having his wife say he does.