Did you hear the breaking news about the next presidential debate?
All the Republican and Democratic candidates have committed to attend this first-of-its-kind debate, a “frank discussion” about the issues that affect the 98% of Americans who are straight. They’re calling it the “Straight Forum.”
I know. To think that candidates for the highest office in the land would assemble to discuss issues that exclusively affect a bloc of voters who are defined solely by what they do in their bedrooms, it’s, well…a little ridiculous.
But that’s exactly what happened last week, when most of the Democratic candidates for president descended on Los Angeles for the Presidential Forum on GLBT (that’s gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender, for the uninitiated) Issues.
While not groundbreaking (a similar event was held in 2003), the forum underscored the disproportionate influence that the homosexual-rights lobby wields within the Democratic Party. Think about it. It was only a generation ago-in the 1970s-that homosexuality was classified as a “mental illness” by the American Psychological Association. And now, though the National Health and Social Life Survey (the most widely accepted study of sexual practices in the United States) puts the combined gay, lesbian and bisexual population at a mere 2.1% of the electorate, the gay lobby is able to compel six of the eight Democratic candidates for president to speak at length about their issues.
The point of last week’s “debate,” such as it was, was for each
candidate to march on stage and declare his or her undying support for all things gay. The candidates were then interrogated about any slight deviations from the extreme gay agenda that could be dredged up by the event’s organizers. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson apologized for once voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, Hillary Clinton was forced to defend her husband’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military, and Barack Obama was chided for his “decidedly old school” stance on gay issues.
The evening’s most politically incorrect moment came when Richardson told a breathless audience that he thought homosexuality is “a choice.” “Wrong Answer, Governor” declared a gay columnist in Monday’s Washington Post. Sufficiently cowed, the Richardson campaign went into full damage-control mode, issuing a “clarifying” statement that insisted Richardson didn’t understand the question and explained that he actually believes homosexuality is a product of nature, not nurture.
Groveling aside, the forum highlighted an uneasy dynamic that exists in the Democratic Party: between gay activists who want to see their agenda advanced and liberal politicians who want to get elected.
So, while all the Democratic presidential candidates wholeheartedly support most of the gay agenda-including extending to same sex couples the more than 1,100 federal rights that come with civil marriage, federal hate crimes legislation, a federal ban on anti-gay job discrimination, repealing of the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and civil unions-there is one thing not one of the top-tier candidates will endorse: Gay marriage.
But these Democrats’ opposition to gay marriage has nothing to do with principle. Rather, it is about politics, pure and simple. When asked why they do not support gay marriage, not one of the Democratic candidates responds with the Christian view that marriage is a sacred union of one man and one woman, insists that gay nuptials weaken marriage as a social institution or references the wealth of empirical data affirming that children do best in traditional families.
Instead, they equivocate. Senator Clinton says gay marriage should be left to the states, while Obama insists his opposition is just a matter of “semantics” and argues that civil unions for same sex couples wouldn’t be a “lesser thing” than marriage. John Edwards blames his opposition on his Southern Baptist upbringing, and Christopher Dodd recently responded to a question from a group of high school students about the difference between civil unions, which he supports, and gay marriage, which he opposes, by saying, “I don’t think probably much in people’s minds. If you’re allowing that, all the protections you have there, you’ve covered it.”
The Democrats’ complicated answers belie the simple truth: Even liberal presidential candidates will not publicly support gay marriage until most voters do.
The numbers don’t lie. According to a recent Gallup poll, a plurality of Americans (49 %) believes homosexual relations are immoral. Moreover, a series of Quinnipiac University polls of voters in Florida, Ohio and Penn-the big three electoral swing tates-found voters by large margins are more likely to consider the endorsement by a gay rights group as a reason to vote against, rather than for, a candidate. This, according to the polls, is especially true among independent voters and much more so among men than women. Add to this the fact that voters in 27 states (with 227 electoral votes) have given voted to protect traditional marriage in their constitutions, most by overwhelming
This doesn’t mean the Democratic presidential candidates do not want to see gay marriage become federal law; they just want to wait until it’s more politically popular. That is why Edwards constantly uses the “I’m on a journey, wait for me” narrative and why Richardson insists, “the country isn’t there yet on gay marriage…we have to bring the country along.”
Barack Obama made this point at a recent fundraiser when he suggested that Martin Luther King Jr.’s pragmatic approach to civil rights was the
map to follow to one day achieving same sex marriage. Obama was saying, in effect, “I support gay marriage, but let’s wait a little while until we’ve built up more public support.”
Over the next 14 months, the Democratic presidential candidates will try to convince America that they do not support same-sex marriage. But, if they listen closely, voters will understand what they really mean: “I support same sex marriage, just not quite yet.”