This is the sort of thing where my utter lack of personal, familial, or social ties to the American intolerance belt makes me a bit useless as a pundit, but I wonder about the Democrats' efforts to position themselves on the gay marriage issue. They're against equal civil marriage rights because that's unpopular. At the same time, they can't completely alienate their equality-supporting backers, so they're essentially all in favor of everything else on the gay rights agenda.

Under the circumstances, I can't help but wonder who it is who's supposed to be fooled by this. After all, if someone emailed me and said "it's very important to me that gay and lesbian couples not be allowed to marry -- who should I vote for?" it would be malpractice for me to respond by saying "oh, it doesn't matter, all the candidates have the same view on this." On the contrary, any of the major Democratic contenders is much more likely to wind up appointing judges who look sympathetically on legal arguments against marriage discrimination, and all support enacting an array of anti-discrimination laws that will undermine the idea that the government has a "rational basis" for marriage discrimination.

Clearly, these points are subtle enough that someone might overlook them. But surely any cultural conservatives who place a lot of emphasis on these questions is aware of the importance of judicial nominations. Similarly, anyone driven by gut-level dislike of gays and lesbians is bound to notice that the Democratic Party is a poor vehicle for such sentiments.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to