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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Gay Marriage: Backlash Concerns

I was speaking with an older guy at the office earlier today and he's a big opponent of the Bush admin and all it stands for. He said that when he heard about the Mass SJC decision on gay marriage yesterday, he wondered how many millions of votes that assured George Bush. He's big on the unintended negative consequences of doing good things. For example, he argued that the school system in the US declined because of desegregation (white flight, suburbs, property tax funding, etc.--not important how valid this is to my point) and hasn't yet recovered.

His concern about what the decision means for Democrats echoes a lot of the news reports I've been seeing about how this is a bad development for the Democratic candidates for president. The awkward statements from the campaigns certainly add to this perception (Lieberman, for example, said in a statement he was happy about the decision yet opposed gay marriage, if that makes any sense). And sure, this will help to mobilize the anti-gay base of the Republican party.

My response, however, is this: what is the alternative? There have been plenty of cases where the rights of groups are expanded in American history, and there's always a hell of a time with the people who liked things the way they were. That's not a valid excuse for ignoring what is right, in my judgment.

Rather than running away from this issue, I want to see Democrats embrace this as a case of allowing every American enjoy full rights under the law. Who will demonstrate the courage to confront prejudice and bigotry?

This reminds me of Dick Gephardt's stance on gay marriage--he opposes it, despite the misgivings of his lesbian daughter. The way he justifies his stance is that the country, in his view, isn't ready for it, or something like that.

There has to be more than political expediency as a reason to deny taking up the banner of equal rights. We need leaders who have the will to endure the challenges of championing a cause that a lot of people disagree with. The country will come around on this, just as it has on other rights issues historically.