Will Obama's Paralysis on Gay Rights Issues Worsen the Enthusiasm Gap in November?
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The White House’s decision to go middle of the road in a misguided attempt to keep moderates and independents in camp Obama has clearly backfired. Some speculate things could get even worse as outspoken conservatives come out and tack left of Obama on key social issues such as same-sex marriage. None hold elected office, of course, and the GOP platform remains unchanged. But even elected Republicans are quieter on LGBT issues than in previous election cycles.
The most notable Republican to come out in support of marriage equality is former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman. Following shortly on his heels, former John McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt argued there is a strong conservative case to be made for gay rights. The attorney litigating the case against Prop. 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, is Ted Olson, the U.S. Solicitor General during the Bush administration. This recent turn of events may bode well long-term for gay rights. But it should also serve as an embarrassing reminder to Obama and the Democrats that they have done very little for the gay community, and that their inaction has consequences.
At present, five states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to gay couples: Connecticut (2008), District of Columbia (2010), Iowa (2009), Massachusetts (2004), New Hampshire (2010) and Vermont (2009). Statewide laws that provide the legal equivalence marriage to same-sex partners are California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
According to a CNN poll conducted last month, a small majority (52 percent) of Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married and have those marriages recognized. That is up from 45 percent just over a year ago. About 80 percent of Americans polled support repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Despite the obvious trend toward equal rights for gays, there has been little movement and leadership from Washington. Is it enough for the LBGT community to turn its back on the Democratic party and start voting Republican? Chances are, no. Does it “demoralize” the Democratic base further, and will they be more difficult to mobilize come this November and further down the road in 2012? Most likely.
“I don’t think the (anger) is dying down. If anything we are seeing more of it. I don’t know what effect that will have on people going to the polls but a lot of people have lost their patience,” said Paul Guequierre, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “Right now close to 80 percent of Americans support repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It makes you wonder why the Senate hasn’t passed it. The house has, why hasn’t the Senate... The president has always said he supports ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Now you could ask 'Did he push hard enough?’ The answer: Probably not enough.”
“This should not be a partisan issue. We believe in equality and we do not believe it is a liberal or a conservative value. It’s an American value,” Guequierre said.
The conservative case for gay marriage
Litigating the case of gay marriage in the U.S. Court system is none other than Ted Olson, former U.S. Solicitor General during the Bush administration and undoubtedly one of the most powerful and respected legal minds in this country.
“Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage,” Olson wrote in a Newsweek op-ed. “This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership.”