Sunday, August 08, 2010

Prop 8 overturned! (Hey Republicans, Aren't You Outraged or Something?)

Judge Vaughn R. Walker has overturned California's Proposition 8, which narrowly outlawed marriage equality in California in 2008.

From the Judge's decision: "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in  singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

Hooray for equality! Now, back to your regularly scheduled politics.

I've long maintained on this blog that the movement among conservatives to stop marriage equality has always been based on prejudice and the desire to raise a lot of money rather than any rational argument. This seems to be something that Republicans are increasingly willing to admit to themselves.

The GOP response to Judge Walker's ruling has actually been fairly muted. Why aren't they screaming from the rooftops for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, as they have in years past? For a couple of reasons it seems. First, as the article linked above documents, many Republican leaders are saying that they want to make jobs and the economy the focus of their campaign this year, rather than hot-button social issues.

I applaud Republicans for this. Quite seriously, I'm gratified that conservatives would rather campaign on important economic issues rather than the old mantra, "God, guns and gays." But there's also some cynicism behind Republican loss of interest in gay marriage as an issue.

The Politico reported this week that Republican Congressman Peter King, "said that in terms of social issues, the raging controversy over the Arizona border laws is providing more than enough ammunition for Republicans in key districts. “The Arizona immigration law is there, there’s no reason to be raising an issue of gay rights” as a wedge, he said." Yeah, attacking gays is so 2008. Now it's brown people. Nate Silver has some great comments on Congressman King's remarks and what they mean:

"Of course, cynicism over gay rights is nothing new in Washington. Did the Bush administration, for example, which arguably used gay marriage ballot initiatives  to propel themselves to victory in Ohio and other key swing states in 2004, ever really have a deep ideological commitment to the issue? It seems unlikely, now that the admirable Laura Bush has spoken in support of gay rights, and Dick Cheney has, more or less, as well."

"The muted reaction to Wednesday's Proposition 8 verdict is understandable, for Machiavellian political reasons. If the country is divided about 55/45 on gay marriage, as it now appears to be, the negative intangibles attendant to going after the issue -- voters from the far right end of the political spectrum to the far left regard it as a distraction from more pressing matters like the economy -- might well outweigh any narrow political gain. Perhaps in a way this is a sign of progress: if the divide were more like 65/35, as it was a few years ago, the calculus might well be different."

Apparently, if the times they are a changin', Republicans are prepared to change with them, if they see an advantage. I'm glad that California's own Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger now supports marriage equality. But the way he's shifted positions on the issue has been a little goofy. He twice vetoed gay marriage legalization after passage by the state legislature, saying it was wrong to overturn a 2000 ballot amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in California. So, it's not ok for the elected legislature to overturn a ballot prop, but it is ok when a judge does it? Weird.

One more observation. There is actually an issue on the Democratic side of the aisle where we've seen the party back away from a once cherished idea as that idea has become less popular. That issue is the assault weapons ban. The ban was in affect from 1994 to 2004, and President Obama campaigned on having it renewed. Once in office however, both the White House and the Democratic Congress both abandoned the idea as a political loser, and an unnecessary distraction from the rest of the President's agenda.

Gun control is the rare issue where Democrats and Republicans seem to be meeting in the middle. Democrats are no longer calling for an assault weapons ban, and Republicans aren't calling for the repeal of the Brady Bill, which has stopped 2 million illegal gun purchases since 1994. Perhaps we'll see the same phenomenon on marriage equality: the incredible prospect that Republicans as well as Democrats will finally decide that gay Americans are real human beings.

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