I’ve been openly underwhelmed with the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates and their positions on gay issues for a while now. So, it was particularly encouraging to read that Elizabeth Edwards was scheduled to speak at a San Francisco Pride event for the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club. It was pleasantly surprising to read that she spoke in support of marriage equality at that meeting.
Elizabeth Edwards, starring at the kickoff event of San Francisco’s signature Gay Pride Parade, came out in support of legalized gay marriage today — taking a position which she acknowledged is at odds with her husband, presidential candidate John Edwards.
“I don’t know why somebody else’s marriage has anything to do with me,” she said. “I’m completely comfortable with gay marriage.”
…The breakfast appearance by the candidate’s wife — witnessed by a score of politicians, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera — was hailed as a milestone in the 30 year history of the Gay Pride event, which had never been visited by a major presidential candidate or spouse.
But Edwards went one step further in a speaking to reporters after the event, and became the first major Democratic candidate or spouse to openly support gay marriage.
But that position differs markedly from her husband, the former North Carolina Senator. Edwards said her husband, though having a ‘”deeply held belief against any form of discrimination,” supports gay civil unions, but does not support gay marriage.
“John has been pretty clear about it, that he is very conflicted,” she said. “That’s up against his being raised in the 1950’s in a rural southern town. I think honestly he’s on a road with a lot of people in this country are on….They’re struggling with this. Most of the gay and lesbian people I know… have seen their friends and family walking down that same road.
However cynical I may be about it, the speech itself is a huge step forward.
I don’t have a reason to doubt Mrs. Edwards’ sincerity, but her announcement could potentially have the effect of increasing LGBT support for john Edwards (who has done quite well on gathering LGBT endorsements thus far). And it’s important to remember that Mrs. Edwards’ speech, while it might result in a few more questions for her husband on the campaign trail (and more opportunities for him to affably repeat, “Well, Elizabeth and I disagree on that issue. And it just goes to show that Americans can disagree on this issue and still work together.”), it will not require any policy changes on the part of candidate. Nor will it require any policy changes on John Edwards’ part should he win the election.
Still, it’s important that anyone connected to a major presidential candidate has come out publicly in support of marriage equality.
So, now that one Democratic candidate’s spouse has come out in favor of same-sex marriage (or at least not opposed to it), the only question is “Who’s next?” I can only think of two besides Elizabeth Edwards who are high profile enough to be newsworthy.
Michelle Obama? Not likely. Just helping get her husband the nomination is a big enough rock to roll up a hill.
President Clinton told Rolling Stone magazine that he was forced to implement the country’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military by Republicans who “didn’t want me to have a honeymoon period.”
Clinton told the magazine that he wanted to craft a policy on gays in the military in the way President Harry Truman went about integrating the military.
“He issued an executive order and gave the military leaders a couple of years to figure out how best to do it,” Clinton said. “But a lot of the gay groups wanted it done right away and had no earthly idea what kind of reaction would come. They were shocked by the amount of congressional opposition.”
While the magazine quotes Clinton in tomorrow’s issue as calling the policy “dumb ass,” it’s unclear in the audio version whether the president is saying “dumb ass” or “don’t ask.”
With Elizabeth Edwards having already blazed a trail, thus making it safe for another Democratic spouse to do the same, Clinton seems like the best candidate to follow her. And what would be more fitting than for the former president who signed DOMA to repudiate yet another policy that he can claim Republicans forced on him?
So, Bill. How ’bout it?