December 31st, 2010
Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele’s job is up for grabs, even though he very much wants to keep it. And so he’s pulling out the issue that nearly all conservative politicians turn to when they want to shore up a base of support: marriage equality.
During the campaigns for midterm elections, the GOP and the Tea Party embarked on a concerted effort to downplay LGBT-related issues in order to reassure LGBT people and their allies that the GOP was no longer interested in fighting the culture war. But now that the elections are over and there are signs of growing discontent in the GOP over Steele’s numerous gaffs as party chief, Steele agreed to sit down with the National Organization for Marriage’s Frank Cannon for an in depth interview on the party’s plan to fight same-sex marriage.
In particular, Steele celebrated the GOP gains in the governorships and state legislative seats where “the battle is going to be, my friend.” He also praised the GOP’s partnership with NOM “and others in the movement to make very clear that this is a line that we want to draw.” He added:
For us, going forward, we’ll look to the leadership in Washington, yes, for any legislative or federal efforts to address the issue of marriage, between man and woman, traditional marriage. But most especially at the state level where I think the battle is really going to be fought over the next couple years, and we want to be in partnership through our state party organizations working with state legislative leadership to stand firmly and squarely behind the defense of marriage.
But Cannon disputed that marriage was just a state issue, and asked Steele what he would do to “extend the branding, if you would, of the Republican Party platform’s support of marriage out in the public domain.” Steele answered:
You and I are actually on the same page here. I did not want to give the inference that somehow one side of this fight is less important than the other or less effective than the other. We’re going to have to come at this as a pincer move from the federal and the state level because that’s exactly how it’s being played out nationally. It’s not just what we’re seeing happening at the state level at the state legislatures, but it’s also a national move afoot to block attempts to, for example, to get the Defense of Marriage Act passed [sic] in Congress or to propose some of the legislation at the federal level that weakens the efforts by pro-family movements at state legislatures from being effective. So we’re on the same page there.
My only point was that really is the front line right now because that’s where we see the battle being won and lost, if you will, on a day to day basis.
Steele then goes on to defend his position by saying that not only is it not anti-gay, but it is also not exclusionary. And in incredible Animal Farm fashion, Steele intends to reconcile that fallacy by controling the terms of debate. “How we approach people and how we let others approach us really defines how this debate is going to unfold,” he explained. Which means that it’s alright to talk about marriage, as long as we only talk about marriage on his terms, and no one else’s. So he’s not only being exclusionary in his position on marriage, he also intends to be exclusionary on the very parameters of the debate.
But was terms does Steele want to debate marriage? This is where it gets to be the most insulting.
My father died as a young man from alcoholism. So my family, from a very, very early age when I was four years old, was broken. My father was an alcoholic. He was abusive. I saw what he did to my mother, and I saw what he did to our family over time. So I have this understanding of family and how it’s held together and why it’s so important. And despite the shortcomings of my father, despite the difficulties and his own personal demons that he had to go through, he was still a very important part of my life. And my mother would share with me that while he may have been difficult with her, he was gentle with me and he understood at least, through some mechanism in his brain, that this child that he was holding was of some value. And so he would then impart to me certain things and tell me certain things about himself. And so the reality of it is, that cohesion is important.
Steele then goes on to say that as Maryland’s Lt. Governor, he met with many young men in jail who did not have “the definitional structure” of a one-man-one-woman family — not even one as dysfunctional as his family. And after having met so many criminals who violated the law, he believes that it is vitally important for children of LGBT couples to be denied the societal support that families headed by straight families receive. In Steele’s view, if teen gang members and petty criminals who grow up without a father represent some sort of second class existence, then teenage boys and girls who grow up in LGBT families are third class — behind everyone else, including families headed by the gold standard of fathers who drink themselves to death.
And so his fight, then, is to preserve that order, and he is happy to modify the Federal Constitution in the process:
Oh, absolutely. Without hesitation or doubt. In fact we would partner with our leadership in the House and certainly our governors and leadership in the state legislatures to create a very very strong front line if you will, on that issue. I can’t again stress how important that is for how we will lead as a people, and how we will see ourselves as a nation down the road. And again, that is not to the exclusion of anyone, it’s not anti- anyone, or any group. It is just so fundamental and foundational, I think it needs to be protected.
At least three others are vying with Steele for the GOP chairmanship. But before you pin your hopes on Steele’s downfall, consider this: they, too, agreed to interviews with NOM. Former RNC political director Gentry Collins said that same-sex marriage “devalues” his marriage, Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus vows to protect “the sanctity of marriage given to us by God,” former Missouri Republican Chairwoman Ann Wagner calls efforts to ban same-sex marriage “a pillar of our Republican party and our platform,” and that the GOP should not shy away from it, and the Tea Party-aligned Save American Jobs Project Chairman Saul Anuzis — you know, he leads the people who really only care about economic issues — says that defending one-man-one-woman marriage is “part of our faith.”
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Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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