BY Bob Hall
January 17 2006 12:00 AM ET
opposed to the state constitutional amendment prohibiting
same-sex marriage now being considered by the
Wisconsin legislature. Oh, I know I’m an
unlikely champion of gay rights. I’m a Marine Corps
Vietnam vet who has deep regrets about that
war—mostly I regret that we didn’t kill
twice as many of those murdering totalitarian bastards. I
hope we do better in Iraq. I believe the “out
now” crowd are racists who think the Iraqis are
too inferior to deserve democracy. Or they don’t
care, as long as America is defeated and George Bush
I worked hard to
defeat John Kerry last November and will do so again if
he runs. And I’m a death penalty advocate who thinks
we should run it like a barbershop—two chairs,
As a member of
the Massachusetts state senate, I regularly voted against
increasing the state budget—more than any other
senator. And don’t get me started on guns.
I’m not for mandatory concealed carry, but I do think
fondly of how polite folks were in the days when gentlemen
Madison, Wis., I feel a certain kinship with the Israeli
ambassador to Baghdad. While I think of myself as a centrist
Republican with a libertarian bent, to the average
Progressive Dane voter, I’m a fascist pig.
So how did I
become a supporter of gay rights? In 1973
then–Massachusetts state representative Barney
Frank had filed bills prohibiting employment and
housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The bills came before a committee on which I served.
There were a lot of jokes and nudging going
on—this was the early ’70s. Appearing to
testify was a bright and charming woman, Elaine Noble,
who would later serve as a state representative
herself. Elaine convinced me that supporting Barney’s
bills was the right thing to do. I told the chair, Sen.
Allen McKinnon, to record me in favor of them.
received a favorable report—but no one in the
committee’s Democratic majority was willing to
carry (be floor manager) for them. So I volunteered.
floor leader had a minor stroke when he learned I was
carrying gay rights bills. He had only seven Republicans out
of 40 senators. I was 27, single, and holding a seat
I’d won by nine votes out of 60,000 cast. The
common wisdom was that I was a one-term wonder who
caught the incumbent senator vulnerable but couldn’t
I suspect that I
may have been the first legislator in the country to
speak for gay rights on the floor of a state legislature.
McKinnon spoke for the bills after me. On the roll
call, only six senators voted in
favor—McKinnon, four other Democrats, and myself. And
the bills were dead that year.
But I won the
next election by 10,000 votes, carrying every city and town
in my working-class Democratic district. More legislators
decided that supporting antidiscrimination measures
was a safe thing to do. Today, it’s the law in
Massachusetts—which strangely doesn’t seem to
have collapsed because of it or because of the gay
marriage decision there last year.
Trust me, no true
heterosexual wakes up and thinks, Hey, I’m really
angry with my partner. I think I’ll try dating
someone from my own gender from now on. So who has
destroyed traditional marriage in America?
men—and increasingly women—abusing their
spouses? How about the heterosexual trend toward
infidelity, led by the example of our highest elected
leaders? How about men fathering and then abandoning
children to poverty and state support? How about a
large number of straight people deciding serial
marriage and divorce is a cool lifestyle?
about those trends would really protect marriage.
anti–same-sex-marriage amendment isn’t going
to help my marriage by so much as a red whisker. If
you think it will protect your marriage or any
marriage, that marriage is already shot.
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