Op-ed: GOP Strategy Could Haunt Them



 For most Democrats, who’ve always been uncomfortable discussing LGBT rights, fearful of its use as a wedge issue by the GOP, that might seem like a godsend — a “truce,” finally, on this culture war issue, time to just stop talking about it. But, in fact, that would be stupid. The LGBT cause is now something for the Democrats to use to their advantage and indeed as a wedge against the GOP.

The history of the Defense of Marriage Act is yet another example. Ever since the Department of Justice decided not to defend DOMA, leaving it to Republicans in Congress to hire a lawyer to do so, House speaker John Boehner, in statement after statement, has treated defending DOMA more like a chore than something he’s passionate about. It took almost two weeks after the DOJ announced in February that it would not defend DOMA for Boehner to affirm that the House would do so. He made the announcement on a Friday, certain the news would be lost in the media coverage over the weekend.

Even then, Boehner didn’t state his rationale by railing that traditional marriage needed to be “defended” against gays. Instead he couched the action as a duty to defend a law and charged that the president “has opened this divisive issue.” Boehner had the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — which has a Republican majority — vote (3-2) to defend DOMA rather than taking it to a vote of the full House, knowing that many of his members would not want to be on the record supporting it.

Boehner has been on the defensive ever since. Six House Democrats spearheading the DOMA repeal have demanded a briefing from the outside counsel the House hired, former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement, pointing to his use of arguments that are based on antigay junk science and opinion. “It’s incumbent upon all lawyers…to undertake representation in an objective manner that is factual and legally supportable,” their letter notes. “Unfortunately, the outside counsel that you have retained filed pleadings containing arguments and assertions that are troubling and appear to fall short of this standard.”

When the House in September tripled the cap for Clement’s fee — to $1.5 million, in a time of economic hardship — Democrats pounced again. Boehner ducked and ran for cover, and he had his spokesman put out weak statements about how the DOJ should be covering the cost. But he clearly knew he’s got to feed the extremist beast.

The defensiveness is all the more reason why President Obama, if he wants to capitalize on the issue, needs to evolve on marriage now. He has nothing to lose (most of those opposed to marriage equality are already opposed to him) and everything to gain, as the Democratic Party base and the LGBT community would be enthusiastic, working in full force to get him reelected at a time when polls show Democratic voters to be disillusioned. More so, the president should be speaking out on anti–gay marriage amendments in Minnesota and North Carolina, and pointing to the GOP’s recklessness, intolerance, and waste of taxpayer dollars at this time.

With the GOP on the ropes over gay issues, it’s time for Democrats to deliver a knockout punch and end its political gay-bashing once and for all.