Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Still Plenty of Room on the Bandwagon


Hillary Clinton comes out in support of marriage equality
Momentum for marriage equality is so powerful right now it’s surreal.  Much has happened over the past year in this regard; it’s nearly impossible to chronicle in limited space.  But since March alone, major steps to knock down previously sturdy barriers have taken place.
Most of these developments occurred before, during and after the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two central cases (Prop 8 and DOMA) that potentially can cover the landscape in rainbows.  How the justices will rule will be determined in June—Pride month no less—and regardless of the outcome, the march towards equality will continue.

What is driving this momentum is a shift in attitudes among Americans regarding marriage equality.  The most recent of these surveys, the NBC/WSJpoll, shows that 53 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, which is an uptick of two points since December. Some other polls indicate even greater support.  This is a dramatic sea change over the past ten years.

Though politicians are often slow to follow the attitudes of the electorate (e.g. gun control, immigration reform, etc.), they seem to be jumping on the marriage equality bandwagon rather rapidly.  A couple of weeks prior to the Supreme Court arguments, Senator Rob Portman, a Ohio Republican who was a possible VP candidate on the Romney ticket, became the first GOP senator to publicly support same-sex marriage.  He did so because his son, Will, is gay, which clearly put a family member’s well-being above party dogma. 
“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman was quoted as saying.

Republican Senator Mark Kirk (IL) swiftly followed suit as did a number of Dems, resulting in 54 senators supporting marriage equality and still counting.  Only three Democrats have not as yet: Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Mary Landrieu (La.)—all representing red states.

A little over a week before the Supreme Court proceedings, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also climbed aboard the bandwagon.  In a six-minute video for HRC Clinton said, “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes gay marriage.”   Many political pundits saw this as an important step if she decides to run for president in 2016.
Despite the two Republican senators announcing support, the fact that many Republicans submitted friends-of-court briefs to advocate for marriage rights in the Supreme Court arguments, and the party rhetoric saying that the GOP needs to be more inclusive, it is clear their rank-in-file is not ready to approve same-sex marriage.  In that same NBC/WSJ poll, two-thirds of Republicans oppose marriage equality—most of whom are in rural areas.  But the numbers are improving, albeit slower than Democrats and Independents.

The Republican National Committee on April 5 approved a resolution that stated: “The Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America; and be it further resolved, the Republican National Committee implores the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.”
This is the trap the GOP officials are falling in: they continue to pander to their rural and shrinking base and ignore the fact younger people including young Evangelicals are supporting same-sex marriage.  The issue most likely will hurt the party in 2016 and beyond as these younger people vote and the older, more conservative voters leave us, resulting in more elected officials jumping on the bandwagon.

Evan Wolfson, President and Founder of Freedom to Marry, commented: “With Republican support for the freedom to marry increasing every day—aided by the journeys of leaders like Senators Mark Kirk and Rob Portman—the RNC is showing itself out of touch with this resolution.”
Aside from marriage there is also some LGBT progress in the world of sports, which is by no means insignificant.  Although those in the sports industry do not make laws, their influence on our culture cannot be overstated.  Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson (who has a gay son) and Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks both said they would welcome a gay player on their team.  A growing number of hockey players as part of the You Can Play Project have also publicly stated their acceptance of a gay teammate should one come out.

Ex-Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo told the Baltimore Sun that he is in discussions with as many as four gay players in the NFL who may come out soon as a group in a coordinated effort to mitigate the pressure that would normally be heaped on one individual under that circumstance.
Though much work in other areas needs to be done, the marriage efforts have been paying dividends as well as a possible improvement in the sports environment.  The bandwagon still has lots of room for those to jump on.  France, for instance, is about a month away from approving same-sex marriage. Bienvenue à bord!

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