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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for December, 2010

Republican Chair Michael Steele: The GOP and NOM Are “On The Same Page”

Jim Burroway

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.

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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.”

Michael Steele’s West Hollywood Adventures

Jim Burroway

March 29th, 2010

The Daily Caller has looked into Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele’s expenses and discussions on purchasing a private jet. They didn’t buy one, but he does like to travel in style: For the month of February he spent 17,514 on private aircraft and $12,691 on limousines. Democrats report no similar high-flying expenses. Other GOP expenses include:

A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex. [Emphasis mine].

Never having heard of Voyeur West Hollywood, I wanted to see what it was all about. The web site for Voyeur isn’t loading this morning, but its Yelp reviews seem to indicate that it’s among the hotter venues in West Hollywood. It seems very popular with the celebrity circuit. No mention of topless women dancers in any of the reviews, but then this is West Hollywood. Maybe topless dancers imitating lesbian sex just isn’t all that noteworthy.

GOP Chair Steele Support Rights of States to Define Marriage

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2009

On CNN’s American Morning on Tuesday, anchor Kiran Chetry asked Michael Steele, chair of the Republican National Committee, about comments made by former Vice-President Dick Cheney in support of same-sex marriages.

CHETRY: He went on to say, you know, gay marriage is OK, as long as it’s up to the states — individual states to decide, not the federal government. It seems to go further than even President Obama who said he supports civil unions, not gay marriage.

What do you think of Cheney’s comments?

STEELE: Well, I think the vice president brings a very personal perspective to this issue and to the question of gay marriage and gay unions. And I think his comments are appropriate reflection of his family and a situation with his daughter.

You know? My view, personal view is, you know, marriage is between a man and a woman, very much in line with what the president has said. And I think that this battle should be appropriately worked out at the state level.

The states are the ones that are defining the question of marriage, and so they will be the ultimate arbiters, I think, of what constitutes marriage in a given state. So it is the appropriate reflection of the attitude and the culture of a particular community for that debate to take place. And I think the vice president has a legitimate point there.

While at first glance this may appear to a reiteration of the GOP position that “marriage is between a man and a woman”, a closer look show this to be a strong departure from previous Republican rhetoric.

1. Steele found the vice president’s comments “appropriate.”

2. Steele qualified his own opposition to marriage as being his “personal view” and claims it is the same as President Obama’s. This seems to hint at a reluctance to be perceived as anti-gay.

3. Steele thought it appropriate that “states are the ones that are defining the question of marriage.” He even seems to be suggesting that marriage equality in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are a “reflection of the attitude and the culture of [their] particular community.”

4. Not only has Steele chosen not to comment on the decision by New Hampshire, neither has any prominent Senator or presumptive Presidential candidate.

It seems to me that if any prominant GOP leadership still believes that same-sex marriage will unquestionably lead to the downfall of society, they certainly are keeping it to themselves.

RNC Responds to Maine Marriage Bill

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2009

At first it looked as though the Republican Party was going to walk away from the Maine marriage decision whistling and looking away as if they didn’t notice. But finally Chairman Michael Steele released the following statement:

Our party platform articulates our opposition to gay marriage and civil unions, positions shared by many Americans. I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman and strongly disagree with Maine’s decision to legalize gay marriage.

Steele spoke of what “the platform” articulates about “our opposition” rather than trying to suggest that opposition to both marriage and civil unions is the position of a majority of Republicans. Further he said that “many” rather than “most” Americans share the platform’s positions. As for his opinion, he limited it to marriage and didn’t discuss his personal beliefs on civil unions.

There is no suggestion that this is thwarting the will of the people or accusations of undue activism or calls for initiatives. There is no appeal to tradition, God, founding fathers, the fabric of society, or 5000 years of definition.

This two sentence statement appears not to have been broadly released nor was there a press conference. This suggests to me that the Republican leadership wants a low profile about same-sex marriages – especially those passed by a legislature – at this time. I would find it hard to craft a more tepid response.

Whether this is because of a change in perspective, polling data, some new found respect for states rights, or just plain political calculus, I welcome it. And I’m awfully glad that Michael Steele is the current head of the RNC rather than, say, Ken Blackwell.

Maine’s Senators, both of whom are Republican women who have been supportive of gay rights, both stated that they support the rights of the state to determine its own marriage laws. While neither fully came out and endorsed the bill, neither had anything negative to say about it either. This was also the reaction of the White House.

In fact, other than the usual ranting voices endorsing religious oppression, the objection to the actions taken in Maine, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia have been muted to the extent they have been raised at all.

Steele: Civil Unions Are “Crazy”

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2009

Right wing radio host Mike Gallagher asked Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, “Is this a time when Republicans ought to consider some sort of alternative to redefining marriage and maybe in the road, down the road to civil unions. Do you favor civil unions?”

Steele’s response:

GOP Chairman Michael Steele

GOP Chairman Michael Steele

No, no no. What would we do that for? What are you, crazy? No.Why would we backslide on a core, founding value of this country? I mean this isn’t something that you just kind of like, “Oh well, today I feel, you know, loosey-goosey on marriage.”