John McCain will soon announce that he’s picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

The first female Governor of Alaska, Palin’s also the state’s youngest leader. A former beauty queen, fisherman and sports reporter, Palin was only forty-two when she took office in 2006, beating out then-Governor Frank Murkowski. And, surprisingly, the Republican’s relatively good on gay issues.

Or, rather, she says she’s not entirely against the gays, which is a big change from previous contenders…

While she opposes gay marriage – as all the national contenders do – Palin’s frequently come out in support of her gay friends and insists she’s open to discussions on discrimination legislation. Palin told an Alaska newspaper that she’s “not out to judge” gay people. She went on to say that she believes “that honoring the family structure is that important,” and would thus oppose a gay marriage measure. She previously supported a 1998 bill to ban gay marriage.

Despite her opposition to same-sex nuptials, Palin helped move Alaska toward a more inclusive frontier in 2006 when she blocked a bill that would have prohibited gay benefits in the state.

In the first veto of her new administration, Palin said she rejected the bill as unconstitutional despite her disagreement with a state Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits.

“Signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office,” Palin said in a written statement Thursday night.

This soft gay love could complicate matters with staunch social conservatives, but that voting bloc will no doubt appreciate her strident pro-life and gun rights stance. If Palin and McCain can make the benefits issue look like an issue of Democratic ideals, then that could stop any reactionary outrage. Only time will tell how that will play out.

The gays will no doubt be unhappy to hear that Palin’s chummy with anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council.

Meanwhile, some are accusing McCain of “political calculus” for picking Palin. Her candidacy, they say, is simply a lure for Hillary Clinton‘s female base, many of whom may be reluctant to back Democrat Barack Obama.

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