Salon Rates Politicians On The Gay-Marriage Courage-Meter

With politicians tripping themselves to come out in support of marriage equality, its hard to keep track of who has been at the vanguard of LGBT rights and who is just trying to ride some coattails. Fortunately Salon has produced this handy Gay Marriage Courage-Meter, which shows how much bravery various representatives displayed by supporting same-sex marriage.

It’s not simply cut along party lines: GOP stalwart Dick Cheney gets more props than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Below, Salon’s Benjamin Wheelock and Blake Zeff explain how it works:

On the x-axis is timing — who was ahead of the curve, and who just came to the party this week. The y-axis represents who showed guts and risked political capital for their support. Below the courage-meter is a short legend with background on the selections.

Steve Gunderson

Former Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.)Outed as gay on the House floor two years earlier, the lone Republican to vote against Defense of Marriage Act (1996)

Former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) – The lone Southern senator to vote against DOMA (1996)

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) – A red-state senator to vote against DOMA, he also supported gay marriage in his losing 2012 race for Senate (1996)

Former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) – An early African-American LGBT supporter, she voted against DOMA (1996)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) – Voted against DOMA, from a blue state but one that would later support Proposition 8 (1996); Boxer was closer to facing reelection.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – The socialist then-congressman was fairly entrenched in his at-large House seat when he voted against DOMA (1996)

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.) – Running for attorney general in 1998, announced his support for marriage equality before other statewide officials in his state (1998)Gavin Newsom

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) – Issued marriage licenses as mayor of San Francisco, while harboring statewide ambitions (2004)

Former Mayor Jason West (New Paltz) – The then 26-year-old Green Party mayor issued marriage licenses despite warnings he was breaking state law and could face penalties (2004)

Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-R.I.) – Then a Republican senator in a liberal state, publicly opposed President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage

Vice President Dick Cheney – Expressed support for his gay daughter’s right to marry before many others; did not publicly push ticket or party to endorse position (2004)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) – Supported marriage equality before some in New York, and after others; shepherded marriage equality law to passage in 2011 (2006)

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) – As attorney general, asked court to invalidate Proposition 8 after it was voted through by his state, said he wouldn’t defend it in court (2008)

Steve Schmidt (GOP political strategist) – Expressed support for marriage shortly after running his party’s bill-clinton-photographpresidential race; has not sought public office (2009)

Former President Bill Clinton – Endorsement of marriage law in New York came before other national figures evolved, but well after he served in office (and signed DOMA) (2011)

State Sen. Roy McDonald (R-N.Y.) and state Sen. Steve Saland (R-N.Y.) – After voting for marriage equality, these unsung heroes – both longtime Republican legislators – would lose their next elections (2011)

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) – Endorsed before Obama, but shortly after potential 2016 rival Cuomo helped passed law in New York (2011)

Vice President Joe Biden – Spoke his mind on “Meet the Press,” expediting his boss’s announcement (2011)

President Barack Obama – The first president to endorse marriage equality, and did so during election year; however, followed his vice president, and an early-career reversal on the issue (2012)

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) – After Obama’s announcement, a raft of Democrats followed, including the Senate majority leader (2012)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) – Only two House Republicans to sign Supreme Court brief calling same-sex marriage a constitutional right (2013)

Hillary Clinton (former secretary of state) – An open question as to when she might have suppoRob Portmanrted it had she not been secretary of state (and abstained from certain political discussions); announcement in 2013 bore no risk (2013)

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) – Was first GOP senator to come out for gay marriage, after his son Will came out to him (2013)

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) – Expressed support for gay marriage this week; represents state won by Mitt Romney and faces reelection next year (2013)

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) – Expressed support this week; represents red state and faces reelection next year (2013)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) – A few months after winning reelection, expressed his support for gay marriage; represents state won by Romney (2013)


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  • Cam

    I have a problem with a few of these because they are not taking into consideration the absolute lack of risk for some.

    There are many but I will use Cheney. He was the 800 lb gorilla brought in to give weight to the ticket because people felt Bush was a lightweight. Not only didn’t he advocate for gays but he was on the ticket for two of the most anti-gay campaigns run by a political party.

    It was only after those campaigns were done, and he would never have to face another election that he happened to mention that he supported his daughter.

    I feel that supporting a ticket that attacked gays while you had a gay daughter should knock off points, and saying something when there is no election etc… in his case also should have.

    My comment for the other side, is should Gunderson be up so high? Not saying he wasn’t courageous but he was outed, he didn’t come storming out pushing for gay rights.

  • jniceny

    Biden signed DOMA!!!!!

  • brent

    Cheney beats the Clintons and Obama. I cant wait to read the comments on that. CAM, you said Cheney came out after the campaigns. Not true, in his debate with John Edwards he said he did not agree with President Bush, and that was in the middle of a tough campaign, not after.

  • John Doe

    Cheney wasn’t silent when it came to LGBT equality, but he WAS rather quiet.

    That is to be expected. When the President sets a policy, everyone around either follows or keeps their mouth shut (or at least partially shut). We’ve seen this with almost every administration. I remember it with Reagan, H.W. Bush and G. W. Bush. I don’t remember a Clinton scenario… but I’m sure he and Gore had many conflicts and differences behind the scenes. Same goes for the wives. They don’t go against their husbands… not publicly anyway.

    Has Gore jumped on the equality bandwagon yet?

  • John Doe

    I would add to that list the Republicans that voted for equality in New York and Washington State, especially any that got voted out due to NOM afterwords.

  • Cam


    Brent, He beats Obama why? Because he signed on to the most anti-gay campaign in history, his folks attacked Kerry for discussing his “Shame” in the debates, and he waited until after there were no elections to say anything about gay marriage. He said he never brought it up because it would have sunk Bush during the election.

    Oh, and lets not forget he didn’t even attend his own daughters wedding to her partner. yeah, he was certainly out there carrying the Banner.

  • Cam

    @John Doe:

    John, HELL YES! Every single republican in NY who voted that way should be on the list, and any DEMS that didn’t support ousting that bigot Diaz before the election should be on the wayy of assholes.

Comments are closed.