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Posts for August, 2012

GOP endorses extremist platform

Timothy Kincaid

August 28th, 2012

The Republican Party has now released it’s “emphatically approved” platform for 2012. It is as nasty as you thought. No, actually, it’s worse.

You can read it here but the following provisions are the ones which most directly impact the gay community (emphasis throughout is added):

From the section on the economy

Reform the tax code by reducing marginal tax rates by 20 percent across-the-board in a revenue-neutral manner; Eliminate the taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains altogether for lower and middle-income taxpayers; End the Death Tax; and Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.

One of the few points in this document which could positively impact gay people. In those states in which marriage is not recognized, the inheritance tax unfairly taxes same-sex spouses but not opposite sex spouses. Even in marriage states the IRS has insisted on taxing same-sex spouse inheritance. This was successfully challenged in New York, and is currently expected to be heard by the Supreme Court.

While there are other recourses or methods to correct the inequality, should the SCOTUS fail to require that the Federal Government recognize state marriages, this proposed repeal would level the field by eliminating the inheritance tax altogether. And that’s pretty much where the good stuff ends.

From the section on the Restoration of Constitutional Government:

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral. We will strongly enforce anti-discrimination statutes and ask all to join us in rejecting the forces of hatred and bigotry and in denouncing all who practice or promote racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, or religious intolerance. We support efforts to help low-income individuals get a fair chance based on their potential and individual merit; but we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides as the best or sole methods through which fairness can be achieved, whether in government, education, or corporate boardrooms. In a free society, the primary role of government is to protect the God-given, inalienable, inherent rights of its citizens, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Merit, ability, aptitude, and results should be the factors that determine advancement in our society.

The language of this paragraph – when inspected closely – endorses discrimination against gay and transgender people.

We learn early on that bigotry and discrimination are as active in what isn’t said as in what is. When everyone in the room is praised in some way except you even a child knows that it is personal. You have been isolated and set aside for dissimilar treatment. You didn’t get the cookie, your school didn’t get repainted, all the people who look like you didn’t get scholarships. Nothing has to be said.

And, similarly, we know that when the list of all of those against whom discrimination is opposed includes all the usual targets of discrimination except you, you know that it wasn’t an oversight.

It means that the 2012 Republican Party does not oppose discrimination against you.

A Restoration of Constitutional Order: Congress and the Executive (Top)

We salute Republican Members of the House of Representatives for enshrining in the Rules of the House the requirement that every bill must cite the provision of the Constitution which permits its introduction. Their adherence to the Constitution stands in stark contrast to the antipathy toward the Constitution demonstrated by the current Administration and its Senate allies by appointing “czars” to evade the confirmation process, making unlawful “recess” appointments when the Senate is not in recess, using executive orders to bypass the separation of powers and its checks and balances, encouraging illegal actions by regulatory agencies from the NLRB to the EPA, openly and notoriously displaying contempt for Congress, the Judiciary, and the Constitutional prerogatives of the individual States, refusing to defend the nation’s laws in federal courts or enforce them on the streets, ignoring the legal requirement for legislative enactment of an annual budget, gutting welfare reform by unilaterally removing its statutory work requirement, buying senatorial votes with special favors, and evading the legal requirement for congressional consultation regarding troop commitments overseas. A Republican President and Republican Senate will join House Republicans in living by the rule of law, the foundation of the American Republic.

That “defend the nation’s laws” part is in reference to the determination by the Attorney General and the Justice Department that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution.

Defending Marriage Against An Activist Judiciary

A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.

A Sacred Contract: Defense of Marriage

That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle – in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts – makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath. We commend the United States House of Representatives and State Attorneys General who have defended these laws when they have been attacked in the courts. We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so.

We’ve already discussed this at length.

From their section on The First Amendment:

The most offensive instance of this war on religion has been the current Administration’s attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion. This forcible secularization of religious and religiously affiliated organizations, including faith-based hospitals and colleges, has been in tandem with the current Administration’s audacity in declaring which faith-related activities are, or are not, protected by the First Amendment – an unprecedented aggression repudiated by a unanimous Supreme Court in its Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC decision. We pledge to respect the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard the independence of their institutions from government. We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and we affirm the right of students to engage in prayer at public school events in public schools and to have equal access to public schools and other public facilities to accommodate religious freedom in the public square. We assert every citizen’s right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious symbols, or submitting to government-imposed hiring practices. We oppose government discrimination against businesses due to religious views. We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association of the Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations whose values are under assault and condemn the State blacklisting of religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples. We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights.

That is not only absurd, it is a declaration of outright war on gay people. You will notice that they DO NOT condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism that proponents of “traditional marriage” actually engage in on an ongoing basis. In other words, saying unkind things about Chick-Fil-A is condemned by the GOP. Burning down the gay-supportive South Bloomingdale Christian Church is not.

And it is laughable that these “lower taxes, no government spending” folk are all lined up at the trough demanding that they can hold on to their “beliefs” and “participate fully in public programs” as well.

Judicial Activism: A Threat to the U.S. Constitution

Despite improvements as a result of Republican nominations to the judiciary, some judges in the federal courts remain far afield from their constitutional limitations. The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. Judicial activism which includes reliance on foreign law or unratified treaties undermines American law. The sole solution, apart from impeachment, is the appointment of constitutionalist jurists, who will interpret the law as it was originally intended rather than make it. That is both a presidential responsibility, in selecting judicial candidates, and a senatorial responsibility, in confirming them. We urge Republican Senators to do all in their power to prevent the elevation of additional leftist ideologues to the courts, particularly in the waning days of the current Administration. In addition to appointing activist judges, the current Administration has included an activist and highly partisan Department of Justice. With a Republican Administration, the Department will stop suing States for exercising those powers reserved to the States, will stop abusing its preclearance authority to block photo-ID voting laws, and will fulfill its responsibility to defend all federal laws in court, including the Defense of Marriage Act.

They just can’t get enough of that, can they?

Preserving and Protecting Traditional Marriage

The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.

Just in case you missed it elsewhere. Cuz this party wouldn’t want you to accidentally think that they agree with the VAST MAJORITY of the American people who support either marriage (over half) or civil unions (another third).

Adoption and Foster Care

Families formed or enlarged by adoption strengthen our communities and ennoble our nation. We applaud the Republican legislative initiatives that led to a significant increase in adoptions in recent years, and we call upon the private sector to consider the needs of adoptive families on a par with others. Any restructuring of the federal tax code should recognize the financial impact of the adoption process and the commitment made by adoptive families. The nation’s foster care system remains a necessary fallback for youngsters from troubled families. Because of reforms initiated by many States, the number of foster children has declined to just over 400,000. A major problem of the system is its lack of support, financial and otherwise, for teens who age out of foster care and into a world in which many are not prepared to go it alone. We urge States to work with the faith-based and other community groups which reach out to these young people in need.

I’m sure it wasn’t intended, but this would be beneficial to same-sex families, many of whom adopt. Other than the “faith-based” crack, this is actually a pretty good position.

Supporting Federal Healthcare Research and Development

We support federal investment in healthcare delivery systems and solutions creating innovative means to provide greater, more cost-effective access to high quality healthcare. We also support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research, especially the neuroscience research that may hold great potential for dealing with diseases and disorders such as Autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. If we are to make significant headway against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, and other killers, research must consider the special needs of formerly neglected groups.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the party no longer wishes to fund research on HIV/AIDS. That’s reason enough to question their wisdom. At a time when we are on the verge of a breakthrough, with the possibility of the elimination of transmission – if not a complete cure – is at the doorstep, that’s when the GOP wants to focus on Autism and Alzheimers?

This platform is far too extreme for Gerald Ford or George Bush, Sr. And I’ve recently heard commentators say that Ronald Reagan could not be comfortable in this crowd. But with this step they show themselves to be too extreme to be the party of George W. Bush, who – if nothing else – did see the importance of HIV/AIDS programs.

Protecting Individual Conscience in Healthcare

No healthcare professional or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, withhold, or refer for a medical service against their conscience. This is especially true of the religious organizations which deliver a major portion of America’s healthcare, a service rooted in the charity of faith communities. We do not believe, however, that healthcare providers should be allowed to withhold services because the healthcare provider believes the patient’s life is not worth living. We support the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty. We likewise support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their children, including mental health treatment, drug treatment, and treatment involving pregnancy, contraceptives and abortion. We urge enactment of pending legislation that would require parental consent to transport girls across state lines for abortions.

I suspect that this is a direct dig at California’s proposed law to ban reparative therapy for minors.

Under Supporting our Troops

The spiritual welfare of our troops and retired service members should be a priority of our national leadership. With military suicides running at the rate of one a day, with post-service medical conditions, including addiction and mental illness, and with the financial stress and homelessness that is often related to these factors, there is an urgent need for the kind of counseling that faith-based institutions can best provide. We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith. A Republican Commander in Chief will protect religious independence of military chaplains and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities. We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world.

Funny… the chaplains have no problems with DOMA as enforced on base. But I guess “rights of conscience and religious freedom” means the GOP’s right to dictate what their conscience will tell them and religious freedom is only the freedom to support some religious positions.

You know, it won’t be very long until a majority of the religious people in this country not only support gay rights, but do so out of their firm religious conviction. I doubt we’ll be hearing much about religious freedom then.

From the section on International Assistance

Foreign aid should serve our national interest, an essential part of which is the peaceful development of less advanced and vulnerable societies in critical parts of the world. Assistance should be seen as an alternative means of keeping the peace, far less costly in both dollars and human lives than military engagement. The economic success and political progress of former aid recipients, from Latin America to East Asia, has justified our investment in their future. U.S. aid should be based on the model of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, for which foreign governments must, in effect, compete for the dollars by showing respect for the rule of law, free enterprise, and measurable results. In short, aid money should follow positive outcomes, not pleas for more cash in the same corrupt official pockets.

I included this because when taken with the following statement, it’s shocking:

The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda. At the same time, faith-based groups – the sector that has had the best track record in promoting lasting development – have been excluded from grants because they will not conform to the administration’s social agenda. We will reverse this tragic course, encourage more involvement by the most effective aid organizations, and trust developing peoples to build their future from the ground up.

You get that? The “rule of law” excludes “the homosexual rights agenda”. God, this is an evil document.

I have tremendous respect for Log Cabin for their efforts to fight within the Republican Party and make inroads where they can. But I am glad that I didn’t have to sit in a room with people who seriously can spout this stuff without recognizing the venom and bile that it is.

It’s not just the anti-gay stuff.

Yes, there are some decent clauses and a few ideas that I found reflect some of my own. But then there are those truly mind-numbingly strident statements (on immigration, for example) that leave you wondering just who on Earth they are appealing to. And those by far outweigh any common sense – or even principled conservative approach – that can be gleaned.

Overall, the document seems out-of-touch and extremist and reflective of the views of people that I simply can’t fathom – and I’ve met some pretty unusual people. It’s an angry rant by an increasingly isolated people who seem to mistrust and resent the rest of the world around them; and no one more so than those of us who are gay.

GOP reportedly sides with incarceration and execution of gay Africans

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2012

Think Progress has posted a portion of what they claim is the GOP platform on foreign aid. If this is an accurate and complete statement, then the Republican Party has, in effect, assured African nations that if they return to power, the US will not oppose the horrific mistreatment of gay Africans.

The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda. At the same time, faith-based groups — the sector that has had the best track record in promoting lasting development — have been excluded from grants because they will not conform to the administration’s social agenda. We will reverse this tragic course, encourage more involvement by the most effective aid organizations, and trust developing peoples to build their future from the ground up.

In Africa – other than South Africa – “the homosexual rights agenda” is not about marriage or adoption or other matters of civil equality. It’s about not being murdered in the street, it’s about being able to meet without police crackdowns, it’s about not being thrown in jail for decades, it’s about not being executed by your government for “repeat offenders”, it’s about existence.

And it is this that is “the administration’s social agenda”. The Obama administration has taken efforts to require that those nations who receive US taxpayer dollars treat their citizens with some small measure of respect.

With this platform, the GOP will “reverse this tragic course… and trust developing peoples to build their future from the ground up.”

You want to throw gay people in jail for 14 year in Malawi? We trust you. You want to pass legislation in Uganda to execute gay people, like couples, who “repeat” the “offense” of having sex with each other? We trust you. You want to incarcerate anyone who “aids or abets” same-sex unions in Nigeria? We trust you.

Yes, I know that the platform has no bearing on the policies of the candidates. Yes, I know that both parties tend to turn the platform over to the less-mainstream members and ignore it thereafter.

But this is extreme. This is the sort of policy statement that really can’t be interpreted to be anything other than horrific. And if the Republican Party members leave this in their platform when it is voted on from the floor this week, it will result in shock and embarrassment when regular people, good ol’ voters, just normal family folks who aren’t really all that concerned about gay people either way hear what it means.

Because it’s one thing to “disagree about the definition of marriage”. It’s quite something else to endorse the execution of people for being gay.

About that throw away line…

Timothy Kincaid

August 23rd, 2012

Log Cabin Republicans presents the Republican Party’s platform as outdated, desperate and abysmal. I think that all those who favor freedom and equality would have to agree.

But they also present the rather lukewarm assurance that “in certain places the 2012 Republican platform is an improvement compared to the 2008 document”. Weak praise indeed. It would be difficult to get worse.

And one of the comparitive improvements they list is “we appreciate the inclusion of language recognizing that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect”.

I agree that such language is always welcome. And I’m certain that virtually all readers – if this were in any context outside a national election – would agree that such language is better present than absent.

But as this is an election year, this sentence has been received with – shall we say – less than trumpet flair and confetti. In some instances it has been met with derision and contempt.

Perhaps the best example of this comes from Stonewall Democrats who not only mocked Log Cabin for their pleasure in the inclusion of the line, but claim that it is nothing new. In a press release titled “Gay Republicans Mislead LGBT Americans on GOP Platform” they assert the following:

“What’s even more ridiculous is the idea that this language is something new. The Republican Party platform has included similar language since at least 1996. This is just a rewording of a generic principle that few Republicans would construe to include LGBT equality.”

They go on to list what they insist are examples of statements that are substantively the same.

But is that true? Is the sentence that Stonewall says Log Cabin “touted” (but which Log Cabin says was “an improvement”) nothing more than a recitation of a meaningless phrase that has been around since 1996?

The answer is, as it so often is in politics, both yes and no.

Can Stonewall claim that those words – or similar ones – were used in the past? Yes. Similar words have been used. But not in the context in which they are presented in the 2012 platform.

The words that Stonewall quotes – in each of 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 – are in the preamble and speak to a generic sense of equality of all and are not intended to apply to any particular policy. However, in 2012, the words that complete the section titled Marriage are: “We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.” This is a non-generic and policy-associated statement.

In other words, for the first time the Republican platform has stated that within the context of the marriage fight, all Americans (and by implication, specifically those who seek same-sex marriage) should be treated with respect and dignity.

It is not the same as previuos years. Yes the words may be similar, but as we so often tell our opponents, context matters.

Now this may mean little to many who see it as a pittance. And, indeed, it is a pittance. And if we are seeking to measure whether this redeems the platform, no it most decidedly does not. It’s still atrocious.

So is that throw away line really all that unimportant? That depends on what you’re looking for.

Does it suggest that Romney/Ryan is an acceptable choice? No, not at all. Even Log Cabin makes no pretense that their efforts were effective in swaying the “base” of the party. It’s a nasty platform reflecting the nasty policies of a collection of people who – or at least a majority of whom – really don’t like us and want to do us harm.

But those who watch trends and measure social progress may find it quite interesting. Tony Perkins may brag about “writing it”, but I very much believe that this is a concession he would not include if he could have avoided it. And, as Log Cabin notes, the future of the Republican Party trends towards inclusion. Even as a trailing indicator, it’s worth attention.

Log Cabin’s realistic (and non-touting) response to the Republican platform

Timothy Kincaid

August 22nd, 2012

As predicted, the Republican party platform is wretched.

Stonewall Democrats decided to use the platform as a contrived excuse to attack gay Republicans, asserting that Log Cabin was “touting” their role in the document. Unfortunately Stonewall’s claim was repeated all over the place as though it were accurate.

Here is what Log Cabin actually had to say:

(Tampa, FL) – While Log Cabin Republicans commend the delegates who proposed inclusion of pro-equality language in the 2012 Republican Party platform, the final document is marred by outdated social conservative ideology.

“Tony Perkins may be boasting today about having written an antigay marriage plank into the Republican Party platform, but it will be a hollow and short-lived victory,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. “The obsessive exclusion of gay couples, including military families, from the rights and responsibilities of marriage, combined with bizarre rhetoric about ‘hate campaigns’ and ‘the homosexual rights agenda’ are clear signs of desperation among social conservatives who know that public opinion is rapidly turning in favor of equality. Unfortunately, what voters can’t see in this document is the significant debate within the Committee. We were pleased to see vigorous debate on amendments in support of civil unions and to delete language regarding DOMA. While these measures failed, the future direction of our party clearly trends toward inclusion. This may well be the last time a platform will cater to the likes of the Family Research Council on marriage, and the fact is, platforms rarely influence policy. Tony will never see his discrimination written into the United States Constitution.”

Cooper continued, “Together with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, Log Cabin Republicans are proud to have encouraged this important debate at the Republican National Convention. Only by being in the room and speaking conservative to conservative will we succeed in building a stronger and more inclusive Republican party.

Despite abysmal marriage rhetoric, in certain places the 2012 Republican platform is an improvement compared to the 2008 document for LGBT Americans. Log Cabin Republicans advocated for the exclusion of any language calling for the return of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – there is no longer any reference to the supposed ‘incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.’ We are pleased that the 2012 platform’s language on refugees no longer presents a barrier for asylum of LGBT people who are persecuted and threatened with execution in places like Iran. Finally, we appreciate the inclusion of language recognizing that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. While there is clearly a long way to go and the language regarding marriage will be harmful to Republicans in November, these changes should not be overlooked.”

Tony Perkins: “I Wrote” GOP Platform

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2012

The Log Cabin Republicans yesterday were all kinds of proud over the impact they had in helping to shape the Republican platform this week. LCR chief R. Clarke Cooper told BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner that the draft platform’s preamble approved yesterday morning includes the statement, “We embrace the principle that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect,” which they took as some kind of an olive branch to the gay community. Bless their little hearts. And they also sold themselves a little short. I managed to find another reference to dignity and respect in the main body of the draft platform. Maybe you can find it too.

Marriage

The Institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, and are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, are less like to to engage in crime, and are less likely to get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic wellbeing of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also more government control over the lives of its citizens in all facets. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting along, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as a national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.

There’s more:

Marriage and the Judiciary

A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundation of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.

Defense of Marriage

That is why congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. An activist judiciary usurps the powers reserved to other branches of government and endangers the foundation of our society. We oppose the Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle — in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts — makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath. We commend the United States House of Representatives and those State Attorneys Generals who have defended these laws when they have been attacked in the courts. We reaffirm our support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other states to do so.

That doesn’t sound like a platform influenced by the Log Cabin Republicans. It sound much more like — actually, virtually identical to — something that would have come out of an email blast from the Family “Research” Council:

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told BuzzFeed: “You should read the entire plank on marriage, which I wrote. I feel very happy about it. I feel pretty optimistic about the outcome here.” [Emphasis added]

Ordinarily, whenever you read someone claiming sole credit for something, you can usually be safe in ignoring the boast. But when you go back and read these sections again, especially the first one, Perkins’s boast appears to be well-founded. Just try to find one iota of difference between these platform statements and the daily blasts from the Family “Research” Council. I mean, hell, even the FRC can include a throw-away line about dignity and respect for all Americans.

Wall Street Republicans fund GOP congressional candidates

Timothy Kincaid

August 16th, 2012

Perhaps “Wall Street Republicans fund GOP congressional candidates” isn’t exactly ground-shaking news. But the reason that the Republican Unity super-PAC selected its first three recipients might surprise you. It’s because they want to build a base of pro-equality supporters within the GOP. (Politico)

American Unity PAC, launched by Elliott Associates hedge fund executive Paul Singer earlier this summer with a $1 million donation, is poised to advertise in the races being fought by Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.). While none of the three candidates has stated a clear position on gay marriage — only one GOP House member supports it — the group hopes to move the people it backs toward support of it.

The major contributors to the PAC, aside from Singer, are financier Cliff Asness, who gave $100,000, [hedge fund manager] Dan Loeb, who gave $250,000, and [investment group founder] Seth Klarman, who also gave $250,000. Asness and Loeb played a role in Singer’s efforts to fund the push for New York’s successful gay marriage legislation in 2011.

While Bono Mack, Hanna, and Biggert have not taken public positions in support of marriage equality, they are generally supportive of the community. And I rather suspect that when Mr. Singer calls and says, “Hi. I’m Paul Singer and I just saved your political career. Let’s talk about marriage”, they just might find his arguments very convincing.

The Party Platforms

Timothy Kincaid

August 13th, 2012

This is a rather exciting year for firsts, when it comes to party platforms.

The most exciting and best known change comes in the Democratic Party platform which will, for the first time, endorse marriage equality. Although many party members and elected officials have been supportive, it was not until this election cycle that there is sufficient consolidation of position (about two thirds) to make this an agreed upon issue.

While this is a bit of a gamble (we could get blamed if the Democrats do less well than expected), it is, I think both the right thing to do and a smart political choice. The movement is towards equality and even those who do not support us won’t be surprised by the move.

But another smaller change also has happened this year, one that mostly flew under the radar. But this change is probably far more important than it might appear at first glance: Log Cabin, the organization for gay and lesbian Republicans, is for the first time sending a delegation to the Republican platform committee.

Now I don’t anticipate that there will be anything remotely resempling a positive plank come out of that committee. It will oppose equality and probably call for an anti-gay constitutional amendment. But it is possible that by simply being in the room, they will be able to influence the language adopted. It’s harder to be dispicably vile when your victim is sitting there looking at you.

But it is not the anticipated content of the platform that is worth note. As a symbolic move, allowing Log Cabin to participate is of tremendous importance. For decades the GOP has been openly hostile to its gay members – when it even bothered to notice their existence. For the first time, the party has – by this move – indicated that gay Republicans are “real” Republicans and have a legitimate place in the Party.

It will be some time before the Republican Party follows the lead of Europe’s conservatives and decides that “marriage is a conservative value”. And the voices of discrimination and animus will only get shriller before they are drowned out by the inevitable change in public position.

But these small steps are exciting to see. They demonstrate a change in the Nation that promises our eventual success. And they send a signal to the raging anti-gays that their days are numbered, that no matter how much chikin they binge in their battle for superiority, the end of the war is in sight.

You know that you’ve lost the “protect marriage” battle, when…

Timothy Kincaid

July 6th, 2012

… less than 10% of Republicans in Iowa consider overturning gay marriage to be a high priority. And when people who consider themselves “social conservatives” and Rick Perry supporters endorse marriage equality. (CBS)

Conservative lawmakers are watching public opinion move away from them on the gay marriage issue, and now fear that voters might not approve a ban even if the GOP can put one on the ballot by winning control of the Legislature in the November elections.

Geddes, who is managing a handful of GOP statehouse campaigns, said internal polls in conservative Iowa districts show that fewer than 10 percent of Republican voters now consider overturning gay marriage a high priority.

GOP Senate leaders no longer list the issue high on their agenda, although they have promised to propose a ban if they control the legislature. A handful of Republican leaders, such as former county Linn County chairwoman Kathy Potts of Cedar Rapids, recently have announced support for gay marriage.

“If it weren’t for the loud voices of a few in our party, I do believe more Republicans would stand up in support” of gay marriage, said Potts, a social conservative who backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid.

But the HOMOSEXUALS!!! Are getting MARRIED!!! And, and, and… oh, what the hell… where’s the reception and are they serving top shelf?

You know that you’ve lost the “protect marriage” battle, when…

Timothy Kincaid

July 6th, 2012

… you sue the State of New York because Republicans conspired to pass marriage equality. (Fox News)

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Rochester ruled against gay marriage opponents who argued that Republican state senators violated New York’s open meeting rules ahead of the law’s passage last year.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms said Cuomo and another gay marriage supporter, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, met behind closed doors with the Senate’s Republican majority in violation of the open meeting law.

Oh those dastardly Republicans, all meeting up in secret to impose gay marriage on the state!! The vote should be overturned!!

The appeals court noted 5-0 that caucuses can meet in private to discuss issues, even if there is a representative from the Governor’s office present. As of yet, no news source is reporting that any justices burst out laughing or called the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms a bunch of addled loons. Or, at least, not to their faces.

Texas Republicans No Longer Want to Imprison Gays! (Not officially, at least)

Rob Tisinai

June 26th, 2012

This is…progress, I suppose.

In 2008 and 2010, the Texas State Republican Platform contained the following language:

Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy…

Marriage Licenses – We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.

Neither of those are in the 2012 platform. That’s kind of a big deal. Throwing gays in prison is apparently no longer a political winner even in the conservative heartland of the conservative heartland.

Here’s another improvement. The 2010 platform offered a vile equation of gays with child molesters:

We also believe that no homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child, and that visitation with minor children by such persons should be prohibited but if ordered by the court limited to supervised periods.

That’s gone from 2012, with the language changed to:

We believe that no individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child. An abused child should be given the option of declining visitation with his/her abuser. If court ordered, visitation with minor children by such persons should be supervised.

Also, they’ve backed away from total opposition to gay adoption and now are merely opposing “mandates that deny mothers a choice in selecting a traditional home for their children.”

That’s good news for kids with same-sex parents, so let me shout, Hoo-r…

Hold on.

Hoo-r…

Let me try one more time.

Hoo-r…oh, screw it.

It’s hard to cheer this, even though it’s a subtle but clear signal we’re winning the culture war, even on the most hostile of fronts. Because the new platform still says this:

We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin.

Got to love the scare quotes around “couples.” I knew they thought we couldn’t “marry” but apparently we can’t even “couple.”

Still, this horrible anti-gay platform is better than than evil version it only recently replaced. Yes, evil — that anti-parent, anti-child policy of treating gay moms and dads as if they were convicted child molesters was evil. But it casts a new light on Dan Savage’s recent “house faggots” comment. I can’t support Dan on that comment. I wish he wouldn’t call anyone a faggot. I wished nobody called anyone a faggot. However, I also wish the outraged conservatives piling on Dan’s choice of word were just as outraged by the evil that our country’s biggest state Republican party has only just now stopped promoting. I wish they recognized that Dan’s comment, however intemperate and unfair, was not unprovoked.

But I’m detouring from my original point, my happier point. We’re winning. Even in the most hostile political circles, where winning is mostly an improved version of losing — we’re still winning. This is progress, and it’s only my privileged, urban, Southern-California perspective that makes it hard for me to celebrate it. But we’re winning.

And by the way, there must have been some intense debates going on in Republican Texas over these changes. If anyone has video, transcripts, or links, please post them in the comments.

GOP Pollster: Time To Evolve

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2012

Jan van Lohuizen is a Republican pollster who worked on President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. He is also the GOP’s Daniel reading the writing on the wall when he sent memo out yesterday to Republican operatives with an overview of poll numbers on marriage equality and suggestions on how the GOP should address same-sex marriage if it wants to stay relevant. You can read the entire memo here.

Van Lohuizan notes that through 2009, the uptick in support for same-sex marriage was at a rate of about 1% per year. Beginning in 2010, there was a noticeable elbow in the curve, with support for marriage equality increasing by approximately 5% per year on average. And while that support is greater among Democrats and Independents than Republicans, support is growing in GOP ranks as well, with a majority of registered Republicans supporting a growing list of protections for gays and lesbians.

Van Lohuizan has a come up with a list of talking points which he thinks that Republican candidates ought to adopt if they want to stay relevant, beginning with:

“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.”

This is somewhat similar to Gov. Mitt Romney’s talking points following President Barack Obama’s announcement that he supports full marriage equality. The main difference is that Romney reiterates his opposition both to marriage equality and to civil unions which would approximate marriage equality. Van Loguizan’s suggested talking points addresses neither. But he does explain to the GOP under the guise of another talking point why the party is going to have to change it’s approach to gay people sooner rather than later:

“As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Santorum has some very different advice for Romney. Santorum told an Arknsas television station that Romney needed to “tep up and take advantage of a president who is very much out of touch with the values of America.”:

“Hopefully Governor Romney will continue to stand tall for his position on this issue and understand how detrimental it would be for society for it to have this changed,” Santorum also told the Arkansas station.

“Governor Romney has to talk about his values,” he added. “That’s the most important thing.”

AFA’s Bryan Fischer expands on that advice here.

Did Grenell Jump or Was He Pushed?

This post has been updated with more information from the New York Times and Talking Points Memo

Jim Burroway

May 3rd, 2012

Or did he just simply let go?

On April 19 when Gov. Mitt Romney named Richard Grenell, a longtime GOP communications strategist as his national security and foreign policy spokesman, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan hailed the announcement as “a real outreach to gay Republicans” while Karen Ocamb said is marks “the day Romney pivots to appeal to mainstream voters for the general election.”

But if that was a pivot, it ended Tuesday when Grenell resigned from the campaign. His very brief announcement hinted at why he left such a high-profile post in a national presidential campaign: “My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.”

What “hyper-partisan” discussions was he referring to? At first, some speculated that it may have been related to the initial criticisms from pundits and bloggers over provocative Twitter posts that he made about Rachel Maddow’s appearance, Newt Gingrich’s wife Calista’s appearance, Hillary Clinton’s appearance, Michele Obama’s accent, and other snarky tweets. But it quickly seemed unlikely that those criticisms led to Grenell’s sudden departure. Most of them came from left-of-center and beyond, which Republicans tend to wear as a badge of honor (as many Democrats do with criticism from the right). And besides, by April 22 when Grenell deleted some 800 tweets and took his personal web site offline, those criticisms were already loosing traction. The world quickly moved on to the next outrage.

Well, most of the world anyway. One key component of the restive GOP base didn’t. SPLC-certified hate-artist Bryan Fischer of American Family Association called Grenell’s appointment “a deliberate poke in the eye” to Christian conservatives, and mounted a campaign for Grenell’s removal with a six-point list of demands for Gov. Romney. Family “Research” Council warned that Grenell’s support for same-sex marriage would have him lobbying “for foreign policy more in line with the current administration than the last Republican one.” National Review’s Matthew Franck wrote that Grenell supported marriage equality “with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment.” He even suggested that Grenell’s gayness would cause him to turn traitor to the Republican cause and switch teams if Obama were to come out for same-sex marriage.

Those criticisms apparently spooked and paralyzed the Romney campaign. Andrew Sullivan did some “actual reporting from yours truly” and got to the bottom of Grenell’s resignation:

It seems clear from sources close to Grenell and reporters on the foreign policy beat that his turning point came last week. He’d been part of organizing a conference call to respond to Vice President Biden’s foreign policy speech, now known best for the “big stick” remark. So some reporters were puzzled as to why Grenell, a week into his job as Romney’s national security spokesman, was not introduced by name as part of the Romney team at the beginning of the call, and his voice completely absent from the conversation. Some even called and questioned him afterwards as to why he was absent. He wasn’t absent. He was simply muzzled. For a job where you are supposed to maintain good relations with reporters, being silenced on a key conference call on your area of expertise is pretty damaging. Especially when you helped set it up.

Sources close to Grenell say that he was specifically told by those high up in the Romney campaign to stay silent on the call, even while he was on it. And this was not the only time he had been instructed to shut up. Their response to the far right fooferaw was simply to go silent, to keep Grenell off-stage and mute, and to wait till the storm passed. But the storm was not likely to pass if no one in the Romney camp was prepared to back Grenell up. Hence his dilemma. The obvious solution was simply to get Grenell out there doling out the neocon red meat — which would have immediately changed the subject and helped dispel base skepticism. Instead the terrified Romneyites shut him up without any actual plan for when he might subsequently be able to do his job. To my mind, it’s a mark of his integrity that he decided to quit rather than be put in this absurd situation. And it’s a mark of Romney’s fundamental weakness within his own party that he could not back his spokesman against the Bryan Fischers and Matthew Francks.

This confirms what the Washington Post learned shortly after Grenell’s resignation, when Jennifer Rubin wrote: “The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job.” She later reported that many members of the campaign privately reached out to Grenell over the weekend to try to persuade him from resigning, but they were unsuccessful. She then reiterated the root of the problem: “Despite the controversy in new media and in conservative circles, there was no public statement of support for Grenell by the campaign and no supportive social conservatives were enlisted to calm the waters.”

[Update: The New York Times this morning has more. During that foreign policy conference call:

It turned out he was at home in Los Angeles, listening in, but stone silent and seething. A few minutes earlier, a senior Romney aide had delivered an unexpected directive, according to several people involved in the call.

“Ric,” said Alex Wong, a policy aide, “the campaign has requested that you not speak on this call.” Mr. Wong added, “It’s best to lay low for now.”

For Mr. Grenell, the message was clear: he had become radioactive.

After interviewing more than a dozen aids and advisers, The Times describes the episode as "halting attempts by the campaign to manage its relationship with the most conservative quarter of the Republican Party."

"It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.”]

This leaves many wondering if there is any room for gay Republicans in visible positions. GOPRoud’s Jimmy LaSilva said, “This was an opportunity to send an important message that Mitt Romney wants everybody to get behind him and to support his campaign. They let that opportunity pass.” [Update: Go Proud's Christopher Barron added, "It doesn’t bode well for the Romney campaign going forward if they couldn’t stand up to the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.” Fred Karger, who ran against Romney as an openly gay candidate told TPM,

"It’s going to be difficult for Romney to take other steps like this. And that’s what’s really frightening to me. It’s just too tough to stand up to these groups because they have a lot of money and power. You’ve got to be able to do that, that’s leadership.”]

Sullivan was more direct:

So if all gay Republicans who support marriage equality are banned even from speaking on other topics entirely (like Iran or Afghanistan, where Grenell is a fire-breather), who’s left? The answer, I’m afraid, is no one. Grenell was prepared to stay silent on gay issues entirely and do his job. But that wasn’t enough. Romney’s anti-gay agenda is therefore deeper and more extreme than Bush’s.

Meanwhile, AFA’s Bryan Fischer is declaring Grenell’s resignation a huge win. With continued silence from the Romney camp, this leaves likes of Fischer to operate as the de-facto gatekeepers of acceptable members of the Romney campaign — and perhaps even of a Romney administration.

How the NY GOP responded to the four Senators who voted “Yes”

Timothy Kincaid

April 11th, 2012

Bill Keller has an excellent analysis in the New York Times of the consequences faced by the four Republican Senators who voted for marriage equality. The entire piece is worth reading and provides information that can be useful when talking to other legislators on the fence.

But, to me, the most fascinating response to the four defectors came from the New York State Republican Party:

Fortunately for Grisanti, black congregations will not have much of a chance to register their disapproval in November. The legislators who have designed a statewide redistricting plan took extraordinary pains to protect Grisanti by sculpturing him a friendlier district. The redrawn district cuts Grisanti’s black constituency to 5 percent from 37 percent and reduces the Democrat-to-Republican ratio to less than two to one. To accomplish this, the designers took two distant swatches of friendly territory and attached them by a long thin strand of Lake Erie shoreline where the only constituents are fish.

Indeed, Grisanti and the other three are in the improbable position of having grateful support both from the state G.O.P. leaders and from the Democratic governor. Cuomo, whose popularity is high, has lavished praise on the Republican Four for their courage. And Republican leaders are delighted that gay donors — who might, in the wake of a defeat, have mounted jihad against the state’s Republicans — are instead contributing generously to save these four Republican seats. Each raised between $400,000 and $540,000 in the 10 months after the vote, mighty war chests for State Senate races. Discreetly, because local party officials resent being leaned on, state Republican leaders have tried to wave off strong challengers from filing in the Republican primaries of the four defectors.

From the time of the vote I have believed that these four defectors were not flouting the Party and defying its will, but were instead playing a role that was exactly what the Party wanted and needed. I believe that the Republican Party wanted the marriage bill to pass, but also needed for most of its members to be on record voting no. That the party has since tried to protect the four who voted “yes” fits well with that analysis.

San Diego mayoral candidate leaves Republican Party

Timothy Kincaid

March 28th, 2012

San Diego is beautiful. The weather is lovely, Balboa Park is peaceful, housing isn’t insane, and the people are generally nice. If I win the lottery, San Diego is on my possible cities list.

San Diego is also home of an odd mix of political views: pro-business, pro-military, pro-gay. It’s currently helmed by Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican former chief of police who is a fierce advocate for marriage equality.

But Sanders’ term is up and there are four credible candidates running to replace him: three Republicans and a Democrat. Or there were three Republicans until today; State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher – who gave an eloquent endorsement for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on the Assembly Floor – just left the Party to become Independent.

Which leaves only two Republican candidates: District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and City Councilman Carl DeMaio, both of whom are gay.

No one in San Diego thinks this is odd.

The Impossible Happened In New Hampshire, Ctd.

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2012

Building on Timothy’s post yesterday, the New Hampshire General Court’s website has been updated with the roll callon a vote on the proposed marriage repeal vote. A “yea” vote was to agree that the bill was “inexpedient to legislate,” thus killing the bill. The vote tally was:

  Yea Nay Not Voting
Republicans: 119 115 59
Democrats: 92 1 11
TOTAL: 211 116 70

More Republicans turned out to vote for preserving marriage equality than showed up to vote against. Another one in five Republicans found reasons not to show up that day. This is a very far cry from where the Republican Party is nationwide, but turning points always start somewhere. It’s fitting that this one should come in the “Live Free or Die” state.

Ken Mehlman: “I Apologize To Them And Tell Them I’m Sorry”

Jim Burroway

March 2nd, 2012

In a conversation with Salon’s Thomas Schaller, former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman apologized for the first time for the harm that was done to gays while campaign manager for President Bush in 2004. That was the race in marriage amendment propositions were placed on ballots in key states drive social conservatives to the polls. That campaign also saw aggressively anti-gay flyers being mailed out in West Virginia and other states which said that electing Sen. John Kerry president would result in gay marriages and a ban on the Bible.

In reflecting on his role in the Republican party’s use of anti-gay themes in 2004, Mehlman told Schaller:

“At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort,” he says. “As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”

When Mehlman came out in 2010, he acknowledged that if he had not been closeted while working in the 2004 and 2006 campaigns, he might have fought to keep the party from deploying an anti-gay agenda during those campaigns. Since then, he has worked actively in lobbying for marriage equality in New York and elsewhere, and he lobbied Republican U.S. Senators in the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Andrew Breitbart’s contribution to the gay community

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2012

Andrew Breitbart died today, presumably due to longterm heart problems. Response to his passing has been, to an extent, flavored by how one perceived his activism and where one stands on the political spectrum.

Breitbart served as sort of the Right’s answer to Michael Moore. Like Moore, he carefully selected anecdotes and presented them, often out of context and without explanation or contrary evidence, as representative of broader trends and themes. While anecdotal illustration can be useful if your goal is reform of abusive institutions, too often – as in their case – this is merely a means of galvanizing the forces, demonizing the opponent, and leading the charge for total destruction of the enemy in the Great American Culture War. It matters little that the “enemy” is your next door neighbor or your cousin and that outsiders find it hard to distinguish between you.

And, also like Moore, he delighted in his role as provocateur. With a bombastic style, palpable contempt for the idiots on the other side, and an unquenchable thirst for attention, they never miss an opportunity to see the worst in other and describe it in detail.

But while I have little use for Breitbart’s propaganda efforts and find his antics a bit distasteful in a man older than 22, I neither hate him nor revile him. So my response has been primarily to note that Breitbart is younger than I am and that “died of natural causes” has suddenly taken on a new meaning. I won’t miss him or his work, but I offer my condolences to this family and loved ones.

Yet, the time of his passing may be a good time to note observation of a social phenomenon about which Breitbart is a good illustration. He, perhaps as much as anyone, represented a significant shift in social and political acceptance of gay people.

There have always been those in the Republican Party who believe in and supported gay rights. Many of the old guard, those who were active in the 60′s and 70′s, were not part of the social conservative wing and did not hold their values. While folks like Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, and Alan Simpson may not have advocated for gay rights specifically then (few politicians did), they held the worldview and perspective that allowed them, along with their Democratic counterparts, to grow to support equality.

And there have been those who are called – and often call themselves – Moderate Republicans. They tend to see politics from the perspective of pragmatic solution-finding rather than with rigid adherence to a set of partisan distinctions and are often open to gay-supportive positions. Like Moderate Democrats, their instinct is to find a way to advance policy which can be accepted by the broadest majority of constituents, often to the annoyance of those in their respective parties who are more dedicated to specific goals.

But Andrew Breitbard was not old guard. He was not a moderate. Andrew Breitbart was a Conservative Republican and a darling of those who see the country in terms of ‘friend or foe’. He was a Culture Warrior and he did not view those whom he considered to be The Left with benevolence. Andrew Breitbart was also on the board of a ‘gay organization’.

I put ‘gay organization’ in quotes because I don’t find much about GOProud, the organization in question, that is dedicated to advancing issues of importance to our community. Nevertheless, to many on the Right, self-identification as gay is in itself offensive. To those who insist that they don’t hate anyone but are so motivated by ‘religious conviciton’ that they find it to be ‘supporting the homosexual agenda’ if they are physically in the same room with gay people who otherwise agree with them, GOProud is a militant homosexual activist group seeking to destroy the family.

So it is of some social importance that Breitbart not only sympathized with GOProud, but joined their Board of Directors. And what his participation did, along with that of Grover Norquist, Chuck Muth, and humorless comedienne Ann Coulter, was send a message that one could still be a Conservative Republican and be pro-gay. And as a firebrand and one who was currently relevant (sorry, Ann), his may have been the most surprising and impactful.

I don’t suggest that GOProud’s Board Members necessarily have pro-gay positions (Ann Coulter certainly doesn’t seem to), but rather that they introduce the idea that a Conservative could actually find themselves siding with gay people on an issue without having an identity crisis. And once one accepts that a Conservative need not, by merit of identity, oppose gay people on every issue, then one is opened up to support on at least some issues. The notion that one could be hardcore on taxes or immigration or abortion or funding of social programs, and not be compelled by bonds of association to also oppose ‘the evil homosexual agenda that seeks to destroy America’. For example, Breitbart reportedly supported the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

A message that “Conservatives are allowed to like gay people” may not seem like much. And GOProud is certainly not going to capitalize on this message by actually seeking to influence any conservatives to change their policies.

But it does open the door for real gay advocacy organizations like Log Cabin or HRC or Marriage Equality to present our case without facing automatic hostility. And it also frees Moderate Republicans to be supportive on gay issues without having their legitimacy challenged or them paying a high price in committee assignments or party influence. And I can’t think of a vote in which we didn’t need at least some Republican support.

And it also moves the goal post.

Pat Robertson railed against gay people in vile terms. George Dubya said that the debate over ripping civil rights from gay people had to be respectful. Sarah Palin had unnamed and possibly mythical “gay friends”. Andrew Breitbart joined a ‘gay’ group. It may not feel like progress that is meaningful, but unapologetically conservative and unapologetically accepting of gay people (though not necessarily gay politics) is a position that was unthinkable a short time back.

In short, the pro-gay visibility of Breitbart and others like him is not a great thing, but it’s a good thing.

I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture or praise Breitbart too highly; he doesn’t deserve it. His contribution to our community was more emblematic than intentional. Yet he did choose to join (though he resigned later over the outing of Tony Fabrizio) and that is worth something. And at the time of his passing it is appropriate that reflection on his life be tempered – on both the Right and the Left – by that contribution.

Babeu banks on conservative support

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2012

The Washington Blade has interviewed Paul Babeu, recently outed conservative sheriff of Penal County, AZ:

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Paul Babeu, who’s running to represent Arizona’s 4th congressional district in Congress, said his election would be “very impactful and helpful” in changing “the views, perceptions, beliefs about who we are.”

“If they know me first as a sheriff, as a police officer who has responded to, literally, thousands and thousands of emergencies, has fought criminals, has actually saved lives and served our country in the military for 20-plus years … and when regular people see those accomplishments and those results first, then understand at a later point that I am gay, it changes people’s beliefs and perceptions and understanding,” Babeu said.

While this may seem a bit like wishful hoping, it is possible that we are watching a social shifting right before our eyes.

When this story broke, I expected the usual. Babeu would bluster and slink off, Republican leaders would be “hurt by his deception” and the everyone, right and left, would agree that his presumed guilt over the abuse of power allegations was what they found objectionable.

But to my surprise, the revelation about his orientation and accusations of abuse of power did not result in broad rejection from the right. Even with the charge of abuse as a handy cover for homophobia, the Republican Party leadership didn’t jump.

When the Phoenix New Times looked for quotes from those calling for Babeu’s resignation or investigation, they were limited to his primary opponents and pro-immigrant activists. In contrast, on Saturday night, the California Rifle and Pistol Association honored him with their Defender of Freedom Award.

For me, this is a story that is difficult to process. As much as I long for the day in which one’s orientation plays no role in evaluation one’s worth, I do not see that day as here. Like the first poll that reported a majority support for equality, I do not accept one instance as compelling evidence.

But I do think I may be seeing an interesting political development. For some, Paul Babeu may have become an opportunity to jab at The Liberals and take them on at their own issue. For some, this could be seen as an opportunity to, in effect, say, “see, we aren’t homophobic. We aren’t attacking this gay man, you are!”

But for perhaps more, Babeu’s outing has done the unexpected. He may be right. As unlikely as it sounds, Babeu may be changing the minds of his constituents.

At a meeting of the Yavapai Tea Party, the discussion about the sheriff did not play by script. (Arizona Daily Star)

Yet voters, Republican voters in particular, are also asking some questions of themselves, about acceptance and identity and values, about what really matters most to them.

Said Bill Halpin, a 64-year-old ex-Air Force pilot who serves on the local tea party board: “I care less. I just care less. Don’t preach it on me. Don’t push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights.”

Mona Patton, the 60-year-old real estate agent who is the group’s president, put it this way: “I’m a Christian, but who am I to make a judgment about somebody else?

“I still believe in him. I still back him.”

It is impossible to tell at this point to what extent the perception of Paul Babeu as “our guy” will outweigh long-held beliefs about homosexuality. And the answer to that question may never be known.

Because there is another twist to the story. An Arizona ABC affiliate is claiming that a private school for troubled youth that Paul Babeu ran from 1999 to 2001 had abusive correction policies. That’s not the issue; frankly, getting tough with troubled teens is not going to be seen as a negative by Babeu’s constituents.

But sleeping with them will be. And Babue’s sister Lucy is claiming that he had a relationship with a 17 year old student while he was headmaster of The DeSisto School.

This could be the final straw. This could sink his campaign. Even though a 17 year old is above the age of consent in Massachusetts, sex with teenagers – especially those under your supervision – is not acceptable to rural Arizona voters.

But it is still possible that this could be taken differently. If Babeu denies the charge and can reasonably paint his sister as having suspect motivations, there is a remote chance that it may actually help him. If conservative voters see this as an aggressive witch hunt by the Liberal Media, it could position him as a symbol around which to rally.

Regardless of how this all turns out, it is fascinating to watch. I am truly amazed.

UPDATE: AZCapitalTimes has fuller coverage of the Yavapai meeting. It will leave you wondering if this is an anomaly or if while we were busy battling the professional anti-gays, the world shrugged and decided to take a giant step forward.

The unique voter options in Erie

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2012

It’s always a good thing when a Republican politician is supportive on gay issues. It allows voters who support equality more options and brings issues that really are important higher prominence.

And so when four New York Republican Senators voted for marriage equality, it was of benefit not only to the gay community, but to their constituents. Unburdened by an issue that, absent prejudice and theocratic ideology, would not be debated, voters are free to address fiscal policy and matters that impact economic recovery.

Of course, the National Organization for Marriage will seek to make marriage equality an issue in hopes of “punishing” those Republicans for daring to stray from the fold and to put their principles ahead of their party loyalty (though I suspect that they were doing precisely what the party leadership wanted). But for the most part, this is not an issue on which voters are likely to respond; Republicans who may not feel comfortable with gay marriage are not inclined to switch their vote to a Democrat who not only favors equality but differs with them on other issues as well. Voters in these districts will not have to consider their position on the matter in their vote.

Except for one.

As it turns out, the district represented by Sen. Mark Grisanti is one in which pro-equality and anti-equality voters may have to take their position on marriage into consideration and determine the importance they place on social issues. In Erie, there is one candidate whose approach to social issues will be to use his “conscience” to dictate the behavior of others. And New York’s Conservative Party (a small but influential ‘third party’) has given him their endorsement.

The party instead endorsed Charles M. Swanick, a former member of the Erie County Legislature who once changed his affiliation to Republican before returning to the Democrats. Mr. Lorigo said Mr. Swanick had told the county’s Conservatives that he was against same-sex marriage and abortion and in favor of fiscally conservative policies.

“Swanick is not a fall-in-line Democrat,” Mr. Lorigo said. “Swanick will vote his conscience. He’s made a commitment to us that on our issues, on our values, he will vote his conscience.”

Swanick is not yet the Democratic Party’s candidate and it would be a rather peculiar move to coalesce around a social conservative. But Democratic leaders are desperate to win this seat and they are currently shopping for the best candidate with the Conservative Party’s power a consideration.

Should they select Swanick, gay voters and progressives who value individual freedom could have a strong reason to not only vote for the Republican but against the Democrat.

And, unlike some situations, this time a vote which supports a pro-gay Republican does not necessarily end in the support of Republican leaders who will work to defeat equality. In New York, the leadership could have blocked the marriage vote or used power and threat to bring these four representatives in line. Instead, Republicans met in private, came out of caucus, brought the bill to the floor and while the majority voted against the bill, enough voted in favor to secure passage. (I have theories about very bright politicians seeing the winds of change and how a party that effectively blocked equality in New York would be perceived.) Republican leadership is supporting the four in their reelection efforts.

So, depending on how this plays out, this may be a unique situation in which I can, without any hesitation, encourage voters to vote Republican in 2012.

Don’t be shocked if Republicans support Babeu

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2012

Will conservative Republicans support Sheriff Paul Babeu, now that he is out as a gay man? It’s hard to say.

Some will not. For some, Babeu’s orientation is a deal breaker, a fact that brands him as an enemy, an abomination, and inherently unworthy of public office. But a number of conservatives have already done so and I suspect more will. Some, specifically because he is gay.

Here’s why:

Group identity politics is often born out of discrimination and abuse. Often what establishes commonality, be it as African Americans, as the gay community, or any other minority group, is in reaction to how a group is perceived or treated by others. And often, it is through finding alliance with other groups – a coalition of the mistreated, if you will – that oppressed minorities can find a voice and state their case.

But while this process is empowering, it is also limiting. Because in entering into coalition, one takes on the allies – and the enemies – of those in your coalition. And by tying one’s goals to the goals of another, then each individual is burdened with advancing every goal and convincing every argument.

And even when winning their own argument, it can seem as though one has not. To illustrate my point, let’s look at the relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.

For a time, the Republican Party was the political home of racists who opposed equality and championed bigotry. And accusations of racism were deserved. But the case for judging a person on the content of their character, hard work, and intellect rather than on the color of their skin is powerful and over time many Republicans ceased to care about race.

But they still didn’t vote for black candidates.

Many who observed this saw it as evidence that nothing changed; Republicans are all racists, always have been, always will be. Actually, many times it was evidence of an entirely different phenomenon. African Americans, as a whole, had adopted a set of positions that made it impossible for Republicans to vote for them.

Now there is nothing inherent to the amount of melanin one has which would dictate one’s views on environmental issues, governmental protection for labor unions, tax policy, distribution of wealth and resources, or immigration policy. Even opinions about education quotas, reparation, and non-discrimination policies are not the consequences of genetic determination.

But with few exceptions, black candidates held views on a range of issues which were strongly tied to Democratic goals and with few exceptions, Republicans voted against them. And were called racists for it.

Charges of racism hurt. People don’t want to think that they hate others for no good reason – whether they do or not. And consequently, whenever an opportunity to prove to others (or themselves) that they were not motivated by racial malice, some Republicans jumped at the chance.

This is, I believe, at heart of the adoration that conservatives hold for Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice (though both are far more moderate than their admirers). While they are respected for their contributions, they are adored for being “finally someone black who thinks like I do on issues.” And there really is no better explanation for the rise of Herman Cain (before he imploded) than that Tea Party Republicans could support someone who epitomized their good ol’ boy values and simultaneously prove themselves to not be the bigots that they had been portrayed to be.

Is this tokenism? Yes, in the sense that the candidate is advanced in part due to their race. Surely breaking assumptions about Republicans and race contributed significantly to the selection of George W. Bush’s cabinet. But it is not tokenism in the sense that the candidate was unqualified or would have no power and be merely a puppet. JC Watts rose to the position of House Republican Conference Chair and few suggested that either Powell or Rice were not competent or were merely mouthpieces for others.

I am not trying to suggest that there is not continued discomfort between the Republican Party and African Americans. Party leadership is often unwilling to take the necessary steps to appeal to black voters – or candidates- and sometimes appears hesitant to even consider which views are more consistent with the party’s stated ideals. And at times there seems to be a willingness to pander to those many racists still within the party ranks rather than shame them for the dishonorable nature of their positions.

Eventually, race will cease to be partisan. But that will not be before Republicans are willing to oppose bigotry within their ranks and develop concern about how their policies impact subpopulations nor until African Americans let go of affiliations that position them to be in conflict with that party’s perspectives. It has started (and sadly and ironically is currently being helped by shared anti-gay activism) but it has quite a ways to go.

Which brings me back to Paul Babeu.

The Republican Party is home to many homophobes. There are a good many people in that party who would toss out the window the content of one’s character, hard work, and intellect and base their vote solely on sexual orientation. If Ellen Degeneres’ being a lesbian makes her unqualified to push JC Penny products, then there’s no way they would vote for “one of them.”

But there is a mostly-invisible but quite large segment of the Republican Party who chafe at being called bigot and homophobe and would leap at the opportunity to prove their detractors wrong. They may poll as opposed to marriage equality, but some would still vote for a gay person who shared their views on environmental issues, governmental protection for labor unions, tax policy, distribution of wealth and resources, and immigration policy. And they would so precisely because this person was gay, not despite that fact.

I can’t judge at present just how large that group is. Anti-gays are vocal and visible and also quick to claim to represent far more than they do. And polling seems to be specific issue driven leaving Republican gay support in the very broad range of about 75% on military service to about 25% on marriage.

Additionally, Babeu may not be the guy for “see I don’t hate gays” Republicans to rally around. His district may be so very conservative that those type of Republicans are in short supply. That his accuser is a Mexican immigrant could either hurt him or help him but the accusations of political abuse might make him less palatable than a squeaky clean conservative gay man. On the other hand, having illegal immigrant advocacy groups like Respect-Respeto attack him and being the target of the New Times will only increase his standing among many Republicans in Arizona.

So I don’t really think he’ll win his primary. But I’ll not be too surprised if Paul Babeu does far better than conventional wisdom dictates or if he receives more than a little “I never would have expected it from him” conservative support.

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