The Republican Party Platform remains as virulent as ever, if not stronger still, in its opposition to allowing gay or lesbian couples to marry. To give context, I have quoted these sections in full at the end of this piece.
The platform attacks the judiciary and the president for their actions, and affirms the party’s commitment to an amendment to the US Constitution which would define marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby overturning laws in six states which currently allow equal marriage. It also refers to social experimentation, a reference to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing gay soldiers to serve openly. These sections were effectively written by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. The most the disappointed Log Cabin Republicans could secure was the line, “We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity”, which means little in the context of the previous passage.
Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and an advisor to Gov. Mitt Romney on immigration, defended these sections by comparing it to government regulation of behaviour like drugs and polygamy.
This is not just a party which is not yet on board, whose leaders are still evolving, where members have different points of view. It is one whose default position is organised opposition at every level to difference of opinion on the question. Gov. Mitt Romney, who in 1994 claimed to better than Ted Kennedy on gay rights, signed the pledge to support such a Federal Marriage Amendment from the National Organization for Marriage
And yet, in New York, New Hampshire and Washington, equal marriage exists in these states because of the support of certain Republican legislators. The party is not absolute either in its position. The Respect for Marriage Act, has one Republican sponsor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. And there are two groups of gay members of the Republican Party, the Log Cabin Republicans, founded in 1977, and GOProud, founded in 2009.
The Log Cabins put a much greater emphasis on equality for LGBT people than GOProud do. The former lists “Protecting LGBT families” and “Freedom to Marry”, where GOProud make no direct reference in their headline points in their ‘What We Believe’. The Log Cabins refused to endorse President George H. W. Bush in 1992 or President George W. Bush in 2004. They have yet to make an endorsement this year. They played a part in the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, suing the US in a federal lawsuit.
GOProud could crudely be described as Tea Party response to the Log Cabins. They proven themselves much more likely to emphasise issues other than rights for gay people in their endorsements. In the primary for the California Senate in 2010, they endorsed Carly Fiorina, who had supported Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage in the state, as against Tom Campbell, who had penned a piece calling for a No vote in that ballot, and who was promoted by the libertarian magazine Reason, so no fan of big government. They have already endorsed Mitt Romney.
I think the Republican Party is definitely better for having the Log Cabin Republicans within it. They serve as a touching point for the still small but growing number of prominent Republicans who are speaking out for equality, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, now out former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, Colin Powell, Bush Solicitor-General Ted Olson, Mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders. With the new group, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, they took out ads leading up to this week’s Republican National Convention, and they are adding to the conversation within the Republican Party. I’m not so sure I could say the same of the GOProud, who effectively send the message that while questions of marriage are worth talking about, taxes will always trump protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
Republicans in favour of equality are definitely worth supporting. American Unity was formed earlier this year by a Republican donor with a gay son, and is funding candidates it believes worthy of support.
Because I would like to support the Republican Party (from afar in my case, of course). But I can’t. It is an unreasonable compact to ask someone to make, to support a party that will denigrate their fundamental personal relationships, prey on unfounded concerns, because they will improve people’s financial lives. It is a compact that some rich an well connected gay people can live with; whether equal marriage is five or fifteen years away for them, they don’t suffer or feel the social and economic consequences of so many gay people because of this legal inequality. And I don’t say this even as one who thinks a party’s position on gay rights should be the determining factor in whether to vote for or join a party, or I would not be in Fine Gael.
As with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is and always has been a coalition. Within the Republican Party, these are crudely characterised as being between the fiscal hawks, religious conservatives and military hawks. What this misses is how the party targets the fears of poorer voters on social issues through a process of misdirection. Where the Republicans stand on gay rights resonates most with me because I’m gay. But there is more that is wrong with them. Take for example their very poor track record on immigration, as seen in recent laws in Arizona and Alabama. Rather than focus on the benefit of immigrants brining diverse skills and ideas to a community, they spin a protectionist story that has not helped these states economically. This year’s platform endorses these measures, a stark contrast from their 1960 platform when Richard Nixon ran for the first time, which for an increase in immigration.
The Republicans could have been a party that would make a strong moral and efficacious argument for the market and individual liberty. There are elected representatives and activists who do hold firm to these values. There are many with a view miles apart. But perhaps worse are those who assume a veil of prejudice because it is politically convenient.
Not that there is no hope with the Republican Party. On the question of equality for gay people, it does take a long view. Former Congressman Jim Kolbe, who was outed as gay while in office, believes that this is the last time the Republican platform will take these anti-gay positions. He could be right. If either Maine or Washington vote in favour of equal marriage at the polls in November, they will become the first state to do so by popular vote. That will change things, making it clear that there are votes to be lost. Perhaps a candidate like Gov. Mitch Daniels could take a stance similar to that of Barack Obama in 2008, when he stated that he was against same-sex marriage, but would vote No to Proposition 8 in California. But it’s a lot to expect.
I had a letter published in today’s Irish Times:
A chara, – Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh writes (July 20th) that there’s surely a reason that most marriages throughout history have been between a man and a woman. There is. Most people are heterosexual. That this is true of the majority of people is not a good enough reason to deny what will always be a small minority of couples a chance to make the same commitment to each other.
In any of the 11 countries and six US states that now allow all couples to marry, naturally marriages between a man and a woman remain the norm, and are unaffected in their marriages by the change. How could allowing more people commit to each other send anything but a positive message about the value of marriage?
Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will enhance their comfort and security, it will make gay children and teenagers growing up in Ireland feel more included in society; it will provide constitutional support as well to children being raised by gay couples, and it will give peace of mind to the parents and wider family of gay people. With all this, anyone opposed should really feel obliged to provide more than a semantic objection. – Is mise,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
It is great news that President Barack Obama again holds the position he held in 1996, saying, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married” (with video here). Having publicly opposed equality in the intervening years, it is a major statement that he joins Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton on the side of equality. Whether or not this was prompted by Vice President Joe Biden’s comments on Sunday, he is stating what most presume he believed, but it makes a difference that he sees it politically possible to do so.
With national opinion polls showing majorities in favour of equal marriage, there was no reason left for him to pretend not be on the right side of history on this question. Most imagined that a year or two into his second term, that he would announce that his position had finally evolved to support equality for gay and lesbian families. But he could reasonably have been accused of political cowardice; this way, he enters his second term clear on this policy.
Chris Cilizza in the Washington Post has analysed the political implications, predicting that there will be some downside for him on this. I’d broadly disagree. I think most Americans for whom opposition to equality in marriage is a salient issue would already be voting against Obama. He has made a commitment to equality for gay people part of his first term, from not defending the Defense of Marriage Act to his part in the end of Don’t Act Don’t Tell in the military. Some may point to polls against equality in swing states; what matters though, is for how many wing voters in these states is this a swing issue. Ultimately, no one should have been in any fundamental doubt about where he was on the spectrum.
For politically cynical among the Democrats, this will help his funding, bring out some voters, and stop others from who voted for him in 2008 casting votes instead for the Libertarian, Green or Justice Party candidates. But it will also force Mitt Romney to talk about this issue, which he really doesn’t want to do, but has signed a National Organization for Marriage pledge to support a Federal Marriage Amendment, banning same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I think the advantage in this regard would have been greater still had Obama announced this during the primaries, while Rick Santorum would have been there do highlight the religious fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party. On the whole, I think the political implications of this are marginal, though Obama may lose North Carolina.
Someone remarked to me yesterday evening that Obama in 2008 will presumably be the last time a Democratic candidate for president to be publicly opposed to allowing gay couples to marry. Could we see 2016 as the equivalent election for Republicans? Given the strong trend which is only gathering momentum, it wouldn’t surprise me, though I would certainly say so in the case of 2020.
Again, back to Barack Obama last night, this is indeed great news. This is not just about the electoral cycle. It is about every gay person in the United States, particularly those in difficult situations because of their sexuality, who knows that the president is a clear ally, finally the fierce advocate he promised he would be. And this will change minds. There are people till yesterday who could say to themselves that domestic/civil unions/partnerships must be all right, as it was the position of even Barack Obama. Now they will have to think again. This will change culture, which is just as important as changes in the law, the one complementing the other. The United States is a good few steps away now from achieving proper equality for all its gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender citizens. But with POTUS on board, it has moved a major step in that direction.
I was delighted of course that today the Fine Gael Ard Fheis supported the motion, “That this Ard Fheis calls on the Government to ensure that the Constitutional Convention prioritises an analysis of the proposals for same-sex marriage in Ireland”, proposed by Mark O’Meara for Portmarnock/Baldoyle Branch and Gen. Richard Mulcahy YFG, supported by DCU YFG. Unfortunately, as I was helping the management of the Executive elections, I was not myself at the debate, but I know that there is real enthusiasm in parts of the party on this, particularly in Young Fine Gael.
This question has progressed remarkably quickly in recent years here in and many other countries, and I am quite optimistic that this pace will continue. It is firmly now in the mainstream of politics. It could be the clearest and simplest reform of the Constitutional Convention. I think we have good reason then to hope for equality between all couples within this term of government, after a campaign with all-party support, which I do believe can be convincingly won. It will need a good, strong, confident campaign, and I’m looking forward to it.
Discrimination in marriage in California has been ruled unconstitutional yet again. In June 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in favour of equal marriage. This was overturned by an amendment to the California Supreme Court, Proposition 8, passed November 2008. Those couples had married in that period could stay married, but no further gay couples could marry. The ruling on the high-profile case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown), in August 2010 in the US Federal District of Northern California overturned Prop 8, as violating both the equal treatment and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was immediately appealed, and its effect stayed pending the ruling on the appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal was announced today, confirming that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
So once again all couples can wed in California (constitutionally at least, I’m not sure if the decision has been given a stay on appeal). But on what grounds? The three court judge ruled by 2–1 that because Proposition 8 left gay couples with all the equivalent rights and responsibilities of marriage through domestic partnership, but without the word marriage, there was no rational basis presented by the proponents for the distinction (summary here, full ruling, which I’ve yet to even scan through here).
The decision appeals to the logic of Romer v. Evans, a 1996 ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, which overturned an amendment to the Colorado constitution forbidding anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and lesbian citizens. As Justice Kennedy is seen as the swing vote, this is seen to make it likely to upheld again if it comes before the Supreme Court.
But whatever of the political reality of it, there’s a strange logic that follows. If Proposition 8 had deprived gay couples of any aspect of marriage other than the name, of if California had not had decent domestic partnership, then the case for equality would have failed today in California. To give an analogy, let’s say these isles were US States. It would rule a ban on equal marriage in the United Kingdom as unconstitutional, but one in Ireland as constitutional. That’s because in the United Kingdom civil partnership is practically identical in legal terms to marriage, so there’s no reason not to grant the name, whereas here in Ireland there are several differences between the two. So is there an incentive for those who want to maintain a distinction in the words to leave out some token measure of rights that pertain to marriage too?
We’ll see what effect this has on the election. Republican front-runner Mitt Romney has already criticised the decision of “Today, unelected judges cast [who] aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage”. Will he be forced into making this a campaign issue? I really doubt there’s much political capital for him there if he does. And for President Barack Obama, the ruling is neatly in line with his stated view in 2008, that while not in favour of a general right of gay couples to marry, he did oppose Proposition 8 in California.
This is not 2004. In that year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favour of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, the first US state to allow this. It was only a year after Lawrence v. Texas, in which the US Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in 14 states. In that year’s presidential election, the Republican incumbent George W. Bush proposed a Federal Marriage Amendment to amend the US Constitution to define marriage as between a man and and a woman, prohibiting states from enacting laws to contrary effect. It would have been the second Amendment to restrict the freedoms of US citizens, the first being the 18th Amendment in 1919, introducing prohibition (repealed in 1933). President Bush’s Democratic opponent, John Kerry, a Senator from Massachusetts, supported civil unions, while opposing both equal marriage and any proposal to define marriage at a federal level. Referendums to amend state constitutions to define marriage as only between a man and a woman appeared on the ballot in a number of states in November 2004, driving up conservative turnout, and contributing to the vote of Bush against Kerry, in what was a close election.
But a lot has changed in those eight years on the issue of gay marriage. Then it seemed destined to be a nice feature of certain liberal enclaves, whether in the US or in Europe. Now it seems an inevitability, only a matter of time across most of the developed world. Last year, public tracking polling by Gallup showed for the first time that a majority of Americans supported legal gay marriage, with 53% in favour and 45% against. The figures in 2004 were 55% in favour, and 42% against. The figures in 2004 were 42% in favour and 55% against, and they remained steady till last year. An annual tracking poll should be reliable, but in case it looks too sudden to be credible, it was corroborated by similar figures from the Washington Post (53%) and CNN (51%).
This time last year, at the Young Fine Gael Summer School, I proposed the motion, “This Summer School supports allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry”. It was defeated, two votes short of a majority. Yesterday, now as YFG Director of Policy, I proposed the same motion, and it passed overwhelmingly with, I think, two votes against. This is what I said in the two minutes I had to speak,
Those of you at summer school last year, or I’ve talked to since or last night on this, know this is important to me.
For me, this is fundamentally about the hope I might settle down one day into happily married life, hopefully in a lifelong relationship. The same reasons anyone wants to marry.
Studies on this, and just plain common sense, will tell you those who are married in committed relationships live longer, healthier and happier lives. Of course having a constant, loving companion can be such a comfort in life, there for each other, for better for worse, in sickness and in health.
In voting in favour, you simply acknowledge the care and love a couple show each other should be recognised in a way they believe best reflects their commitment.
We’re now ten years since gay couples in a growing number of places around the world first had the opportunity to marry. How could allowing more people commit to each other send anything but a positive message about the value of marriage?
As to children, don’t forget there are currently children in Ireland being raised by gay couples; it would give them too added security and protection if their parents could marry, such as in a situation if anything was to happen to their birth parent, where under current law their other parent would currently be treated as a stranger.
There is civil partnership. But these beneficial effects have so much a firmer backing with the authority and tradition of marriage. Further, justice requires conditions of people’s lives determined by government be provided equally for all.
This has proved successful in other countries; it will enhance the comfort and security of gay couples, it will make gay children and teenagers growing up in Ireland feel more included in society; it will provide Constitutional support as well to children being raised by gay couples, and it will give peace of mind to the parents and wider family of gay people. With all this, I really think there is no social benefit in preventing me and others from marrying.
It was followed by an excellent speech from Maeve Howe, chair of Dublin South-East YFG, who stressed that this is a human rights issue, not an LGBT issue, and then by an informed discussion from the floor. It was also supported earlier in the day in an address from local TD Seán Kyne, who picked the motion out as one we should support.
There were other motions this weekend which I was proud of, which I will summarize tomorrow. There have been some great moments since I became active in the party in autumn 2009. But the support the motion received yesterday, such a reversal in twelve months, was one of the most satisfying for me at a very personal level, and something I was proud to play a part in.
Here below is a list of all motions in the general policy section of Summer School: Read more…