“’Don’t say gay!’ That command isn’t just for homophobes anymore.”
I never thought I’d be paraphrasing the orange-juice-pushing,1 gay-bashing2 Anita Bryant, but election season has been known to create strange behavior. And after Tuesday night’s second Presidential debate – the last to consider domestic issues – I can perhaps be forgiven for becoming a bit unhinged. While the candidates did get pushed off message occasionally (especially on gun control, which they seemed, oddly, not to expect to have to deal with), in general the entire affair had a scripted quality. And that script pointedly did not include any mention of marriage equality, which remains a hot-button, polarizing issue. The Supreme Court will almost certainly take up one of the cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act this term, and might even resolve the issue once and for all (by taking and deciding the Prop 8 case, which I think is less likely).
Alison Hope offers one explanation, over at HuffPo:
The lack of any mention of LGBT issues in this election cycle’s debates may indicate that the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage may no longer create a balanced division (that is, a worthy talking point to distinguish one party from the other). In fact, the only demographic where the majority of folks still believe that marriage is only permissible between a man and a woman is the 65-and-over crowd. Romney’s camp knows that they need to move toward the center on the issue if they’re to have a fighting chance with anyone who doesn’t have an AARP membership….
Republicans, who have only injected social issues into their platforms since the Reagan years, are slowly realizing the need to shift with the changing ideologies. It’s no longer as cool as it once was to hate gays.
Of course, we’re still light years away from achieving equal rights, and it’s true that the present silence on the issue may even prove detrimental; we wouldn’t want to breed an if-we-don’t-talk-about-it-then-maybe-this-has-been-resolved mentality. Nevertheless, the lack of any mention of LGBT issues in the debates may be a positive step in the right direction.
With all due respect…huh? Hope’s offered one explanation as to why one of the candidates (Romney) might have wanted to avoid the issue; after all, he’s on record not only for opposing marriage equality but also for opposing civil unions and for supporting a constitutional amendment that would cement his view into place, likely for generations. (Nowadays, this is a position so extreme that I doubt even Maggie Gallagher really thinks it’s a likely outcome. It’s not.) But Hope doesn’t explain why Obama didn’t raise the issue nor, more critically, why the moderators or other questioners didn’t raise it, and why it’s been relatively ignored by the vast blogosphere. Remember, only six states and D.C. recognize full equality, and more than half the states still prohibit same-sex unions in their own constitutions. The issue is hardly resolved, even though the equality movement is now being hurried along by a brisk tailwind.
And I’m not as hopeful as Hope. Romney still inhabits a world that should concern not only the gays/lesbians (to say nothing of the wholly invisible transgendered population), but also women who fill any role besides “helpmeet.” Listening to him go on (and on…) about the best family structure leaves many of today’s actual families out in the cold:
We need moms and dads raising kids, wherever possible. The benefit of having two parents in the home — it’s not always possible. There are a lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies they ought to think about getting married to someone. That’s a great idea.
Romney made this comment in response to the earlier-mentioned question about gun control! So it seemed to me that he was “dog-whistling”a reminder to the base that he supports “traditional marriage.” Smart. He didn’t have to go on record so close to the election with a statement that he opposes all legal recognition of same-sex relationships and would in fact support enshrining this soon-to-be-obsolete position in the U.S. Constitution.
But what about Obama? My guess here is that he thinks he’s gotten all the bang he’s going to get for this buck and doesn’t want to remind wavering voters of his very homophilic position. Well, he’s done a lot (especially at the all-important but cosmically boring level of administration) for the LGBT community — so I forgive him.
Finally, what about the moderators or bloggers? Why so little? Scanning the ‘net for stories discussing the omission, I found a puzzling void. Even the voluble Andrew Sullivan, who yawed violently between despondency and elation from Debate 1 (bad for Obama) to Debate 2 (He is Risen!), neglected this omission during his extensive live-blogs of these enervating quadrennial exercises, and, as I write this a day and a half later, he still hasn’t even mentioned the silence.3 Remember, this is the guy whose first book, Virtually Normal, set the terms of the mainstream debate on marriage equality back in 1995. He’s been writing about it ever since.
Again, what up? Readers?
- “Orange juice! It’s not just for breakfast anymore.” I can’t think of that quote without also thinking of Jane Curtin’s SNL parody of Bryant. “I don’t know what I hate more: Gays. or people who still think orange juice is just for breakfast.”) ↩
- If this isn’t ringing a bell, brush up on your gay history. ↩
- He continues, of course, to write about everything else with characteristic wit and incision. Here’s a great example, weaving his own experience as a blogger in with a broader riff on the demise of print. ↩