…by Meg White
The place Meg puts the stuff she wrote
Coming Out of the Political Closet (Or: Why Not Telling ‘Some Gay Kid He Can’t Get Married’ Isn’t the Same as ‘Yes, You Can’)
Categories: Commentary, GLBT

by Meg White

Yet another political tell-all book about the Bush Administration comes out this week, and with it a new lesson for conservatives: It’s not OK to tell gay kids they can’t get married anymore, at least not explicitly.gay marriage yes we can

Last year, President Bush allegedly refused to condemn gay marriage in a commencement speech. HuffPo’s Ryan Grim reveals a few interesting tidbits from former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer’s new tell-all book.

For a commencement address at Furman University in spring 2008, Ed Gillespie wanted to insert a few lines condemning gay marriage. Bush called the speech too “condemnatory” and said, “I’m not going to tell some gay kid in the audience that he can’t get married.”

Now without context, it’s tough to say whether Bush balked at the addition on ideological grounds or just because he realized that condemning gay marriage in a college environment is not a great PR move. Ultimately, this vignette illustrates the hypocrisy inherent in so-called compassionate conservatives such as Bush. He feels for ya, but not enough to use his powers to do something about it.

Of course, one would hope that our former president had a genuine flash of compassion and didn’t want to ruin the day for that imaginary gay graduate by telling him his hopes for marital bliss were impossible. But it’s just as likely that he felt the tide changing. Just this past weekend in a straw poll at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., the issue of same-sex marriages came in way behind abortion and even religious freedom concerns, garnering only 7 percent of the votes.

At that same event, former Miss California Carrie Prejean gave a combative, self-pitying speech in which she claimed that God made her denounce gay marriage on national television. Incidentally, if God himself did indeed send down Prejean’s response to gay blogger Perez Hilton’s question about gay marriage, I recommend he fire his speechwriter post haste.

I always thought that time was on the side of equality. As people got to know more gay couples, their extremist views would soften and they might be less inclined to see gay marriage as a detriment to the institution of marriage as a whole. So do these recent events mean that the popular opposition to gay marriage is coming to an end?

Maybe; maybe not.

On the one hand, there’s a lot of momentum around repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), especially when you consider the hopelessness of gay activists earlier this year. The Respect for Marriage Act of 2009, which would overturn of the law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was introduced last week by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). What was once assumed to be on the back burner for this new administration seems to have taken on renewed importance, at least in the House where there’s a lot of support behind Nadler’s bill.

While six states ranging from Iowa to Maine have legalized same-sex marriage, such state laws are largely invalidated by DOMA. It’s tough for conservatives to rally against states’ rights in their support for DOMA. But the promise of equality could be in peril on the local level, too. Last week, advocacy group People for the American Way issued a report on the efforts by the religious right to mount a Prop 8-like effort against marriage equality in Maine.

The report details the familiar false claims, fear-mongering and out-of-state fundraising blitzes we saw in California last year, this time being employed by national groups to push the Maine’s Prop 1 initiative when it comes time to vote in two months.

Opposition is mounting against the same-sex marriage effort in Washington, D.C. as well. In an incredibly interesting intersection of federal and local legislation, national lawmakers may actually attempt to override the district’s local legalization of gay marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act does face hurdles from the left, too. This civil rights blogger writes for the Examiner that though the repeal of DOMA can boast support from top politicians across the spectrum, Democratic leaders still claim that now is not a good time for the legislation:

Introduced on September 15 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) with an impressive 94 cosponsors already in tow, the Respect for Marriage Act has earned the support not only of former President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, but also of former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, who first introduced DOMA.

The new bill has also received the support of the US Conference of Mayors and a myriad of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the ACLU; and President Obama has frequently expressed his opposition to DOMA

But the real danger to the bill’s success appears to come from Congressional Democrats, especially openly-gay Representative Barney Frank (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Both Frank and Pelosi have balked at supporting the effort to repeal DOMA, on the grounds that the timing is bad, and that other gay-rights causes like the inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) have a better chance of passing.

Meanwhile, no Democratic senator seems poised to introduce legislation similar to the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate.

It’s great that Frank and Pelosi are advocating for ENDA and the repeal of DADT, but their reasoning against the Respect for Marriage Act is disrespectful. The fact that President Obama — as well as his Justice Department, which is charged with legally defending DOMA in court — came out and said that DOMA should be repealed is courageous, albeit in an obtuse way. And it’s promising that one of Bush’s independent thoughts was that it would be inappropriate to denounce same-sex marriage before a bunch of college students.

But just not saying, “You can’t get married” is not the same thing as saying “Yes, you can.”


Image courtesy of us006409′s photostream on Flickr.

Originally published at BuzzFlash.com.

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