October 16, 2003

Gay issues avoided by Democrats

This week has been proclaimed "Marriage Protection Week" in the United States.

Marriage, in case you'd somehow forgotten its meaning and needed to be reminded by the President, is "a union between a man and a woman." The Bush administration is "working to support the institution of marriage by helping couples build successful marriages and be good parents," according to the President's official proclamation on the issue.

Most Americans, I imagine, will fail to "observe this week with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies" as the President has asked.

It goes, perhaps, without saying that the most vocal reaction among the gay community is to strongly decry this event as a continuation of the anti-gay policies of the religious conservatives and their imbecilic presidential puppet.

Though part of the community sees marriage as too heterosexual an institution for gays to pursue, most sees marriage as the next big battleground, now that government has finally recognized the right of its citizens to pleasure themselves as they please (as long as they're not paying for it).

The rest of the world, including the Democratic Party however, seems much more focused on baseball and the health of the Pope than on fighting for gay marriages. The major news outlets have hardly batted an eye: no coverage in The New York Times or any major media, not one question to the press secretary about the issue in the White House press briefings.

More strikingly, just as little has been done by the Democratic Party, the supposed allies of the gay population, in response. Same-sex marriage, though controversial, remains a non-starter issue that Democrats won't touch with a ten-foot pole (poll?).

The Democratic hopefuls, like so many sailors clinging to the last life preserver, have desperately been trying to attract any amount of attention they can in an effort to "secure their base." As such, they continue to pander to the homosexual voters, dangling in front of them the certainty that any of them would clearly be more gay-friendly than Bush. After all, didn't Howard Dean sign civil unions into law in Vermont? Incidentally, ex-Governor of California Gray Davis, too, pandered to homosexuals, signing a law giving domestic partners state benefits in the hope that he might be spared the recall axe—chop!

Despite this talk, none of the serious contenders—Dean, Kerry, Edwards, or Gephardt—can really say anything about "Marriage Protection Week" since none support the idea of gay marriage. Wesley Clark, whose positions (true to Clinton form) are obscure at best, inevitably won't either. Most give lip-service to the idea of equal rights and benefits, and the somewhat obscure idea of civil unions, though only Gephardt includes such an opinion on his official website.

With recent polls showing the nation evenly split, none of these candidates has any incentive to risk alienating a large bloc of potential voters by making gay marriage an issue. It seems clear that the Democrats, in their desperation to beat the anti-Clinton bloc, will have no incentive to push controversial topics such as gay marriage, or even civil unions, as the election nears. After all, absent a candidate such as Nader, the sad fact is that Democrats are still assured the votes of the unfortunately largely disenfranchised gay population.

The irony of all this is that, as powerful Republicans go, Bush is as gay-friendly as they come. He's followed through on AIDS funding in Africa and the Caribbean, approved domestic partner benefits in Washington, D.C., and appointed homosexuals to serve in his administration. He met with the homosexuals in the Republican Party, steered rather clear of comment on the sodomy case, and then took a hard-line against gay marriage that none of his serious opponents are willing to oppose.

So you'll excuse me, despite the "Marriage Protection Week" proclamation, for not lining up to vote for Dean, Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, or Clark in the next election. Because for Mr. Bush (to slightly misquote a line from Lawrence of Arabia), gay-friendliness is a matter of manners and tolerance; for the Democrats, it's a matter of political expedience. You may judge which is the more reliable motive.