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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Republican Politicians: Reluctant Homophobes?

Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann: Dueling Homophobes

There are certainly major homophobic politicians at the forefront of the Republican Party.  In a prior post ["The Legacy of Homophobia," see Related Posts, below] I wrote about the vitriolic attacks on homosexuals by former Presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, which are clearly based on hatred from the heart.  Equally obvious is that the Tea Party wing requires Republicans to swear fealty to the belief marriage consists solely of a union between one man and one woman, and is also largely homophobic on all gay issues [as to this see the recent book Dr. Christopher Parker and Dr. Matt Barreto "Change They Can't Believe In"].

But here’s the thing: any sentient human being is now aware the gay rights battles have an obvious conclusion, and that conclusion is that gays will end up both socially and as a matter of law being treated the same as everyone else.  This result will take a few more years and a Supreme Court decision or two, but it’s now inevitable.  Republican politicians are no dummies.  They see this too, and moreover, the vast majority of them don’t find the idea discomforting or objectionable in any way.  Most Republicans have gay family members, friends, supporters, neighbors, etc., and these are people they value and love.  They also recognize that society is greatly in favor of gay rights these days, and the numbers are getting stronger each month for that position.  How much more uncomfortable must it be for Republican politicians who are themselves closeted gays—that would be a life on an unsteady tightrope.

But Republicans are locked into an unfortunate national stance that gays should not be allowed to get legally married.  This is a major political disadvantage, and loses them votes in election after election as many Republicans entering the voting booths cannot stomach voting for someone who will keep a beloved friend/relative from being able to enjoy rights straight Americans would be aghast to lose.  Polls show this to be true and the candidates know it.  Even worse they are forced to take a public homophobic stance that they not only don’t believe in, but know to be wrong.  This makes it hard for the candidates to come home and face their loved ones, who’ve watched their hypocrisy on TV, shaking their heads in disgust.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s wrong under any definition of the word.

Rob and Will Portman
Some can’t take it, and so come out in favor of gay marriage, bravely daring to go against the Party’s official stance and risking the consequences.  In Ohio we have a prime example.  Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who once had ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act and against allowing gays in D.C. to adopt children, announced his support for gay marriage after his son Will came out of the closet.  This did cause a 13% drop in Portman’s approval rating within the state, so it’s an act of considerable courage.  Shortly after Portman’s announcement, Mark Kirk of Illinois became the second Republican Senator to support gay marriage, though it should be noted that the consequences are likely to be less severe in a state that just recently had its legislature vote to make Illinois a state that allows gays to marry.

Why don’t most Republicans do the same?  If the vast majority of those running for office all were either in favor of gay marriage or at least noncommittal on the subject the issue wouldn’t be a big deal in most elections outside of very conservative districts or states.  
As tempting and commonsensical as that sounds, it isn’t happening, at least not yet.  The reason is that the Tea Party won’t stand for it, and the Tea Party is famous for not compromising even when the battle is lost and when the lack of compromise leads to devastating political consequences.  Their purity is admirable; their tactic is known; the end result is chaos.  Any moderate Republican who doesn’t convert to the Tea Party line is going to face a Tea Party opponent in the next nominating cycle, and even the strongest of Republicans can see his/her political career collapse immediately.  Just ask the amazing former Senator from Indiana, the wonderful Richard Lugar, a voice of calm and sanity in the Republican party for decades (36 years in the Senate!), who lost the 2012 nomination for re-election to a Tea Partier (who got 61% of the primary vote vs. 39 % for Lugar) because Lugar’s stances were not closely aligned with Tea Party dictates.  As a consequence in the Indiana Senate race the Tea Party candidate, Richard Mourdock went on to lose to the Democratic candidate, in large part because of Mourdock’s unfortunate remark that a child of rape was still a “gift from God,” so that the rape victim should be forced to have the rapist’s baby.

So now we come to the Chaneys.  Gay marriage has put them all over the news.

Cheneys: Mary, Dick, and Liz
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose views I typically despise, has always had my admiration for refusing to condemn gay marriage.  His daughter Mary is gay, and last year married her partner Heather Poe; they have two children.  The trouble arises from the recent decision of the older Cheney daughter, Liz, to move back to Wyoming and run for the Senate, at which point she promptly espoused all the most conservative Tea Party positions, including opposition to gay marriage.  Her family was astounded, and although the parents have been non-committal (trying vainly to balance support for Liz’s candidacy with their love for Mary and Heather), the sisters are battling on Facebook.  Here is Heather’s post.
Liz Cheney replied, "I love Mary very much, I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree."

Mary then unleashed her true feelings about her sister's beliefs.  As for Heather’s post she chimed in with "Couldn't have said it better myself." She then added, "Liz - this isn't just an issue on which we disagree—you're just wrong—and on the wrong side of history."

That sums it up nicely.  My guess is that Liz Cheney doesn’t really find much wrong with gay marriage, and particularly not Mary and Heather’s marriage.  But she’s running for office in a very conservative state, so—history or not, hypocrisy or not, love of sister or not—she must be a reluctant homophobe if she wants to have any chance of being the next United States Senator from Wyoming.  Even worse her sister is right: Liz is on the wrong side of history, and that will be a major embarrassment for her as she ages and gays become a ho-hum issue.  Certainly her five children, when they grow up, will be much ashamed by what their mother did when this issue arose and she chose to go down the path of homophobia, alienating her only sister and leaving a legacy of hate for them to deal with.
Related Posts:
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate,” April 29, 2010
“How To Tell if You’re Gay,” August 31, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" November 8, 2010
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011
"The Homosexual Agenda To Conquer the World," February 8, 2011
"Coming Out: How To Tell People You're Gay," March 27, 2011
"The Legacy of Homophobia," August 2, 2011
"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011
"The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual," October 2, 2011
"Gay Bashers, Homophobes, and Me," January 27, 2012
Straight People: Thanks From the LGBT Community,” November 20, 2012
“The Words ‘Queer’ and ‘Gay” in the 21st Century,” May 5, 2013
“A Homophobic Organization Throws in the Towel: Goodbye to Exodus International,” June 21, 2013
“Gay Marriage, the Supreme Court, and the Future,” June 26, 2013
“Disowning Your Gay Children,” October 9, 2013
“Is It Legal To Discriminate Against Gay People?” March 19, 2014

“A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013