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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 July, 2012

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.

SaveAmerica’s Presidential Report Card

Timothy Kincaid

January 18th, 2012

Wackadoodle Extraordinaire Randy Thomasson, calling himself SaveAmerica, has prepared a “Report Card of the Natural Family” to let good values voters know just where their Republican nominees “really stand on marriage, children, adoption, family and moral standards.”

To Randy, a “yes” on this chart is a good thing.

You know, should Mitt Romney become the next president, one good thing will be that he won’t owe any favors to the ranting wackadoodle gay-hatin’ loons on the right fringe of his party.

The coronation of Pope Rick marred by dissent

Timothy Kincaid

January 16th, 2012

When the collection of social conservatives met, the public perception was that the purpose was to coalesce around one Republican candidate, shifting support from a variety of ‘non-Mitt’s to just one not-Mitt in hopes of having a social conservative as the Republican candidate. In reality, they met so each could try and convince the others to support they guy they supported. And just a few days after the white smoke went up, it now seems that all that was really accomplished was a sharp division into two not-Mitt camps.

Which is not very surprising. The collection of “leaders” who met are not known for their humility; in fact, they mostly exist for the purpose of being disagreeable and opposing things they don’t like. Concession is not part of their vocabulary.

But what is a bit surprising is that the conservative evangelical theocratic alternatives are narrowed down to Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Neither really seem to be ideal choices. They are both Catholic, you see. Papists, devotees in the cult of Mary, the tools of a foreign dictator, and worshipers of Mystery Babylon the Great Harlot. While that cultist polygamist Romney might be completely unacceptable, the pagan idolaters Santorum and Gingrich should be only marginally more acceptable – and that simply because Catholicism is a cult more familiar than the secretive Mormonism cult. *

(It is rather amusing when people who hate each other find common cause only in hating someone else even more.)

But it didn’t take long for the American Family Association to set the record straight. (OneNewsNow)

“The Evangelical community still holds a divergent opinion on who the nominee should be,” Rick Tyler, senior advisor to Winning Our Future PAC, a pro-Gingrich group, told OneNewsNow.com. “Rick Santorum won a straw poll that had a questionable methodology.”

“Rick has a very good record on evangelical issues but has no ability to beat Mitt Romney and less so for Barak Obama,” said Tyler. “Endorsing Rick only serves to help Romney who has a terrible record on the issues evangelicals care about.”

Tyler added that at least nine Gingrich supporters did not attend the meeting. He also said such notable evangelicals like Don Wildmon, American Family Association founder, Beverly LaHaye, founder of Concerned Women of America, Pastor Tim LaHaye, Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church and Prop 8 organizer, leading Christian researcher George Barna, former congressman JC Watts, Thomas Sowell, a conservative thought leader, Richard Lee, founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in Atlanta, Georgia and Mat Staver, dean of Liberty Law School have all endorsed Gingrich.

It’s hard to say why they are so devoted to Gingrich. Maybe it’s because his background is Protestant and they have doubts about the sincerity of his devotion to the Catholic Church. Maybe it is because they suspect that Rick Santorum truly would take any position or do without question any action directed by the Vatican. Or maybe they recognize that in a debate with a box of rocks, that Gingrich has hope of coming out on top.

But whatever the reasons, the advocates of theocracy are demonstrating what many of us have known for a while: their supposed influence and power has long been more theater and bluster than substance.

[* I'm not expressing my views, but the views of many evangelical fundamentalist Christians who view both the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church as being heretic.]

Republican support for marriage grows in Washington State

Timothy Kincaid

January 15th, 2012

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat notes a Republican county official who is taking a risk by supporting equality.

Reagan Dunn on Monday also said he supports allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

Dunn is a King County Council member. His blood bleeds so Republican his mother named him after Ronald Reagan. And he’s running statewide this year, to be attorney general — which means he is this state’s highest-profile Republican, by far, to come out for gay marriage.

It also means he’s out stumping for GOP money and votes not just in liberal King County, but in the reddest of red counties. Not to mention trying to rally the party’s base of social and church conservatives to his cause.

Westneat notes that there are now five elected Republicans who have in the past week come publicly on board. Let’s hope it’s a trend

Colorado Republicans start pro-civil unions group

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2012

With very high support for civil unions in Colorado – including from one in five Republicans – a new group has formed to give voice to that support. (Colorado Statesman)

“Coloradans for Freedom” enters the scene less than one year after a bill to legalize civil unions was voted down by Republicans on party lines in the state’s House Judiciary Committee last March.

Coloradans for Freedom spokesman Mario Nicolais, a Jefferson County attorney who served as a Commissioner on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, said the group exists primarily to serve as a resource for Republicans and anyone else interested in a conservative argument for civil unions.

I wish them well.

Box of Rocks takes impressive 3-0 lead

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2012

In the battle of intellect between Rick Santorum and a box of rocks, the rocks are making a surprisingly strong showing. While the rocks haven’t said anything incredibly stupid at all today, Rick Santorum described his position on recognition of gay couples thusly:

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The question is do I think I can beat President Obama cuz I have strong feelings on the issue of marriage and other social issues. Everyone on the stage yesterday and the day before has pretty much has the exact same position I have on all those issues. President Obama says he has the same position I have on gay marriage. So people always talk about the… the only difference is between myself and any of them is that when someone asks me a question I answer it.

I must have missed the press conference wherein the President announced that he has the same views on gay marriage as Rick Santorum. But, knowing the President’s positions, we can now conclude that:

Or that Rick Santorum is so incredibly stupid that he doesn’t know what President Obama has said on the subject. (One alternate possibility is that Santorum knows Obama’s position and is betting that his audience does not. Frankly, I don’t think he’s bright enough for that sort of political calculation.)

Washington equality quest goes bipartisan

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2012

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The Seattle Times reports a happy event:

SOMETIMES it takes just one individual to stand on principle and let others follow. State Sen. Steve Litzow announced he will be the first Republican in the Senate to support gay marriage.

“I am a traditional Republican,” explained Litzow. “When you think about gay marriage, it’s the right thing to do and it’s very consistent with the tenets of being a Republican — such as individual freedom and personal responsibility.”

While the vote is certain in the House, the state Senate is less sure. Although Democrats have a healthy majority, some are not supporters of equality. This early and unequivocal support from Litzow may shame reluctant Democrats and encourage other Republicans and is very welcome.

Box of Rocks – 2; Santorum – 0

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2012

GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum seems determined to illustrate his inability to grasp basic logic concepts. The LA Times brings us his latest.

Reporting from Manchester, N.H.— For the second time in as many days, Rick Santorum waded into the issue of gay marriage, suggesting it was so important for children to have both a father and mother that an imprisoned father was preferable to a same-sex parent.

Citing the work of one anti-poverty expert, Santorum said, “He found that even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids were still better than no father at all to have in their children’s lives.”

Allowing gays to marry and raise children, Santorum said, amounts to “robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to. You may rationalize that that isn’t true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it’s true.”

Oddly, my heart doesn’t tell me that depriving children of same sex parents the legal and social protections they need will somehow cause imprisoned heterosexuals to be involved in the lives of their children.

Another Man’s Wife

Jim Burroway

January 6th, 2012

Sigh:

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Stahl: So you’re pro-choice?

Diana Cantor: I am.

Stahl: Gay marriage? What does that mean?

Diana Cantor: I don’t-

Stahl: You disagree with him?

Diana Cantor: I do disagree. There’s really that respect. If I expect him to respect my views that could be different, I certainly need to respect his.

Here we go again. Yet another wife of an anti-gay politician supports gay marriage. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s wife Diana Cantor joins Cindy McCain and Laura Bush as being gay supportive in ways that contrast with their political husbands. It’s a long if not necessarily a well-trod tradition; Nancy Reagan fretted over the health of her Hollywood friends while her husband’s administration stonewalled on AIDS.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Mrs. Cantor holds those positions and is willing to speak up about them. More wives should. But more to the point, more wives — or more particularly, more Republican women — should speak up, become more active in their party, and even run for office.  Remember, we wouldn’t have DADT repeal today if it weren’t for Sen. Susan Collins refusing to let it die on the Senate floor. Rep. has signed on as cosponsor for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. So, please excuse me if I’m appreciative but not entirely thrilled to my toes over learning that another anti-gay politician’s wife supports us. What am I supposed to do with it? Congratulate Rep. Cantor for choosing such a plucky little lady?

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