So, the anti-gay marriage amendment failed in the Senate. But if I were the Democrats, I wouldn’t breath a sigh of relief just yet. It’s going to come up again in the House, and while it’s probably going to fail there too I still wouldn’t feel all that relieved if I were the Democrats. Because it’s an issue they’ll never be able to outrun until they stand up (for something, anything) and face it.
I’ve listened to the debate and discussion of the issue amongst Democrats and some progressives, and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that people aren’t so much interested in finding a way to talk about this issue as they are interested in finding a way not to talk about it. The best they can come up with is that the debate on this issue is a waste of time that should be spent talking about “more important issues.”
More important than what? And to whom?
Of course I understand by now that the question of marriage equality will probably always be more important to gay & lesbian Americans and our families than it will be to anybody else. But the overall response seems to be to deflect the issue — while not engaging in debate or discussion — as basically “not important.” Nevermind that it’s very important to gay & lesbian families when we suffer the consequences of not having the rights and protections of every other family, and when we’re being targeted by laws that would take away even the few alternatives (domestic partnership, other legal agreements, etc.) that would give us at least a tenuous grasp on a few of those protections.
At a time when we need leadership that will stand up to attacks like this, instead we get deflection like that above, or we get spoken to in code.
“It is wrong to discriminate in housing. It is wrong to discriminate in health care. It’s wrong to discriminate in hospital visitations. It’s wrong to discriminate in hiring. It’s wrong for our tax code to be discriminatory. And it is wrong for any group of Americans to live in fear of hate crimes. We believe that every taxpayer should have the same government services and benefits as any other American.”
Was Dean talking about marriage equality without talking about marriage equality? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s as good as it gets because I’ve seen very little that suggests the Democrats have the courage of their convictions on this issue. And their deflection and code-talking only sends the message that they’re going to run from this particular fight, afraid to speak their values clearly because “it’s not a majority issue.”
And I’m supposed to help return a party that’s not sure of or willing to defend its values to a majority in Congress? Because it’s not going to get any better if they do get back into power. Leadership sometimes means taking positions that because they’re right, even if they’re not “majority positions,” and not cowering behind a rhetorical shield instead.
Instead we end up with Democrats like Georgia gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox, who swung first one way and then the other on a state gay marriage ban. Or candidates like Tim Kaine and Martin O’Malley, both equally scared of the issue, and more than wiling to equivocate on their positions if they believe it will win them votes from voters who are opposed to marriage equality. If they think those same voters will let them drift back to more progressive positions, they’re fooling themselves. And if we think so, we’re fooling ourselves. too.
If Democrats aren’t willing to stand up for their alleged values, if they’re going to run from a fight, then maybe they don’t deserve to lead. But then again, it’s not their fight, is it? It’s not them or their families being attacked. It’s a small, perhaps insignificant percentage of their constituents who don’t have anywhere else to go politically anyway, do they?