Shortly before the 2008 election I asked a gay friend which candidate he supported. When he replied “Obama,” I asked why, and my friend said that he was a single-issue voter (the single issue being gay marriage) and Obama was obviously going to legalize gay marriage nationwide, whereas McCain was a stodgy old conservative and therefore self-evidently an enemy of gay rights. I pointed out that Obama was all over the map and had made conflicting statements about his attitudes toward gay marriage, telling gay groups that one day same-sex marriage will be seen as normal, while on the other hand giving an interview for a mainstream paper in which he said, “Marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”
My friend instantly dismissed Obama’s anti-gay-marriage statements: “That’s just something he’s gotta say to appeal to Middle America. Once he’s in office, you’ll see!”
Well, over a year later, I certainly do see. And the result is the exact opposite of what my friend and millions of other gay voters who chose Obama and rejected McCain on this basis had predicted. Turns out Obama has been a major disappointment for the gay community, while the McCain family has emerged as unexpected supporters of gay marriage.
|Cindy McCain’s new ad promoting gay marriage.|
Yesterday, two unrelated news events perfectly illustrated this unexpected ideological contrast.
The first happened in the California trial challenging the legality of Proposition 8, the measure banning gay marriage in the state. Stanford Professor Gary Segura, an expert witness attempting to show that gays are politically vulnerable and thus need constitutional protection, summarized the gay community’s stinging disappointment over Obama’s inaction as president:
Segura took aim at Obama, saying he was “not a reliable ally” for gays and lesbians, citing his refusal to back gay marriage or end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. When Proposition 8’s lawyer showed a video of a speech last fall in which the president vowed to fight for gay rights, Segura was unyielding.
“I think President Obama is perhaps the best illustration of an ally who can’t be counted on, an ally whose rhetoric far exceeds his actions,” he said.
Meanwhile, over in the Republican camp, John McCain’s wife Cindy yesterday totally destroyed the last shred of the tired old stereotype that Republicans are all anti-gay when she appeared as the new spokesmodel for the pro-gay-marriage group “NOH8.” In so doing, she joins her daughter Meghan McCain as an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.
And yes, John McCain himself yesterday was forced to repeat his rather limp boilerplate defense of traditional marriage, but it’s pretty obvious that the issue is near the bottom of his priority list, as he only mentions gay marriage when pestered about it by reporters. If anything, Obama’s public rejection of gay marriage is stronger than McCain’s.
Like many self-defined minority groups, gay Americans were mostly swept up in the vague but grandiose promises of “change” emanating from Obama’s campaign, and voted for him in overwhelming numbers. But after a year of total inaction on any gay rights issues, it has become painfully obvious that Obama was lying to the gay community — just as he lied to the rest of America on practically every other issue under the sun.
A remorseful voter is an angry voter. How many times can the Democratic Party burn its constituent voting-blocs with broken promises and still count on those votes in the next election?
Gay voters who base their electoral decisions exclusively on gay rights issues need to stop automatically assuming that Democrats are their allies and Republicans are their foes. By awarding their votes to Democratic candidates by default, the gay community has ensured that they are taken for granted and no longer have much political pull.
Yes, it is true that some Republican candidates are also social conservatives who oppose gay marriage. Yet the same is true for many Democratic candidates, though perhaps not quite as many percentage-wise. If you insist on being a single-issue voter (which is an ideological blunder, in my opinion, but that’s a different topic), then look at each candidate individually, aside from party affiliation, to see where they stand on the issue of your choice. When it comes to gay marriage, you may be surprised to find that in many instances (not just Obama vs. the McCains) there are no real differences between the Democratic and Republican positions in any particular head-to-head race. And that being the case, you can move down the list to other political priorities on which to base your vote (economy, defense, etc.), and you can make a decision outside of a rigid political framework.
Only by putting “the gay vote” back in play can those who fight for gay rights get any traction. Otherwise, the gay community will be seen by the Democrats as a sure thing whose demands can therefore be safely ignored.