The Gay Debate

Some readers want my reax. I didn't watch the thing in full. I don't have Logo. I figure: if you've got Bravo, who needs a gay channel? But I did peruse YouTube and read various accounts. It was frustrating to read even someone like Ryan Sager perpetuating the idea that this was the first such debate. It wasn't. It was more frustrating to hear the night described as a debate. It wasn't. It was a series of interviews. Still, I thought the questions were mostly good ones, and Solmonese was tougher than I expected, even with his own candidate, Clinton. Etheridge was surprisingly good too.

My own sense, however, is that we haven't moved the Democrats much in many years. They need and want gay money, so they will talk to us. But none of the leading candidates supports our civil equality in marriage, the Ground Zero of the movement. And, more frustrating, none will say why. If you're for civil unions but not civil marriage, you need an argument. One is simply the semantic one that your commitment to the heterosexual meaning of the word trumps your understanding that gays are also family members and deserve not to be shunted into a "separate-but-equal" institution. But none of them will admit that. The other answer is that they do support equality in marriage but fear losing votes if they publicly say so. As president, of course, they have virtually no role in the matter - it's for the states. But they're scared of the Rove machine - still. So they can't say that either. So they all seem illogical. You can say this: if any of them does believe in marriage equality, their conviction is not as strong as their calculation. I guess that tells you something even about a candidate like Obama. If one becomes president and the Democrats maintain the House and Senate, we may get the trivial (and unecessary) hate crimes act passed. I'm not hopeful for much else in the first four years. I think the gay movement should concentrate on supporting and building on marriage rights in the states, shrewdly backing and financing inclusive candidates, Republican and Democratic, and further engaging the under-30s, who will give us equality when they have their moment in the sun. Some no-brainer reforms - removing HIV as a bar to entering the US, for example - could also be pushed. Along with wartime suspension of DADT (they won't abolish it in a first term - political post-traumatic stress disorder will strike again).

The other aspect of the "debate" was the fact that no Republican candidates are prepared to make a similar case to gay voters. Gays apparently don't exist for the GOP: a constituency they won't touch, let alone appeal to. That's bad for gays, for Republicans and for the country. But it's the party Rove and Bush built: a party whose foundations are exclusionary and divisive.