Scroll To Top

OK, Candidates, What Do You Think of Gay Marriage?

OK, Candidates, What Do You Think of Gay Marriage?


In the aftermath of California's supreme court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the media turns its attention to the presidential race ahead

In the last few weeks several publications have made note of Barack Obama's and John McCain's stances on gay rights. TheLos Angeles Times ran a great piece about the candidates' differing but equally quiet positions, examining how both candidates made the announcement in a "muted" way. No press conferences, just announcements through the Internet; that's because neither one wants to take a prominent position on gay rights for fear of upsetting different contingents of supporters.

In California, which is likely to stay a blue state in November, there is little at risk for McCain. But the Times notes that being too eagerly antigay might repel swing voters elsewhere: "Like McCain's other recent gestures to align himself with the Republican Party's conservative wing, it risks turning off the independent voters whose support is crucial to his White House aspirations."

At the same time, the piece notes that gay marriage may not be quite the lightning rod it used to be: "For independents, polls show, gay marriage and other social issues have dropped in priority as they have begun to fret over such pressing matters as surging gas prices, home foreclosures, and joblessness, along with the war in Iraq." McCain is offering a "nuanced" plan, which opposes a federal ban but leaves it up to the states to decide, prompting Ellen Ann Andersen, a political scientist, gay activist, and author, to astutely note: "Federalism...makes most people's eyes want to roll to the back of their head."

Obama might have it a little harder than his opponent: He's trying to sway evangelical followers who find McCain distasteful, while not trying to piss off his liberal base. The Democrat has also stopped short of being pro-gay marriage. In the past, he's stated that civil unions will suffice.

It's a move to the middle that the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger lambasted in a scathing opinion piece ("How Do You Like Him Now?") that puts the awful truth front and center: "As anyone who's paying attention knows, Barack Obama does not support gay marriage.... Yet there they were at Seattle's Gay Pride Parade on June 29, marching down Fourth Avenue under a blazingly hot sun -- scores of gay voters sweating as they held aloft iconic Obama placards that had been retooled in rainbow colors for Pride. Their implicit promise: We will vote for you no matter which way you move on our issues, because you're better than the alternative."

The writer, Eli Sanders, ends the piece with a sad, but true, reality: "He believes the liberal base, after eight years of chafing under Bush and presented with his historic candidacy and a great shot at winning the White House, will, like those marchers at the Seattle Pride Parade, gleefully throw themselves under his bus. He's probably right."

One of the big stories of the last week was the American Family Association's boycott of McDonald's; the antigay group objects to the fast food restaurant's support of "the gay agenda."Several outlets -- from the very small (the political daily to the very big (The Washington Post) -- ran the story about how the right-wing organization asked McDonald's to remove its executive from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, to which the fast-food chain has also donated $20,000. When Mickey D's refused, AFA called for a boycott.

"Hatred has no place in our culture," McDonald's USA spokesman Bill Whitman told the Post. "That includes McDonald's, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment."

The Post report also notes that the AFA is the same organization that ran a somewhat successful boycott of Ford, which recently ended after two years, "after the automaker largely stopped advertising its Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover vehicles in the gay media. The association also has boycotted retailer Target for substituting 'holiday' for 'Christmas' in its advertising and the Walt Disney Co. for its 'embrace of the homosexual lifestyle.' " (Ford reps have insisted that all niche advertising was stripped during the economic downturn, not just gay ads.)

In gay marriage-related news, Mark Hemingway of the National Review weighed in with "Gay Abandon -- Must We Give Up Our First Amendment Liberties?" His gist is that he is afraid overwrought PC speech will prevent churches and schools from being able to speak freely of their views on homosexuality and will be forced to accept gay issues in the classroom and church.

To support his slippery-slope argument, he quotes Marc D. Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress (and a contributor to the forthcoming book Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty), thusly: "Stern makes clear that he's not saying these legal issues are necessarily an argument against same-sex marriage. 'I'm not saying that [people] ought to be opposed to gay marriage or that in every case the religious claim triumphs. But there really is a problem, in particular with regard to free speech. There are disturbing indications that in schools and elsewhere, certain views will become officially anathema.' "

Hemingway also opines that small businesses, such as wedding photographers, can possibly be sued for refusing to photograph a gay wedding -- though he fails to recognize that such a decision is discrimination, just as it would be if a photography company run by whites refused to shoot a marriage between two African-Americans.

The Right also has some advice for John McCain if he wants to win. Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard editor, told Fox News (who else?) that McCain should resort to antigay bigotry to win the election. "In particular, gays in the military for one. We know Barack Obama is for allowing gays in the military, and Bill Clinton tried to do, but backed off. This is not a popular issue. Gay marriage is another one. These are both issues that I think McCain's going to have to use. You can't ignore the Right. If he does, he'll lose."

Then again, McCain might be barking up the wrong tree. A study conducted by four retired military officers on behalf of the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, made the rounds last week, concluding that President Clinton's failed "don't ask, don't tell" policy should be repealed. "Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline, or cohesion," the officers state. Fox News, Newsday, Time, and, among others, picked up the wire piece or reported the story.

One of the officers, Navy vice admiral Jack Shanahan, a Republican, was quoted as saying: "Everyone was living a big lie -- the homosexuals were trying to hide their sexual orientation and the commanders were looking the other way because they didn't want to disrupt operations by trying to enforce the law."

In local news, in Portland, Maine, an adoption by one adult lesbian of another adult lesbian (her partner), was ruled null and void by the courts, setting the case up for a rematch in the state's highest court, reports the Associated Press in a story picked up by the New YorkDaily News, Connecticut's Stamford Advocate , and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others. "At issue is whether it was legal for a judge to allow Olive Watson to adopt Patricia Spado in 1991 in Knox County, where the longtime partners spent several weeks each summer on an island in Penobscot Bay. The judge who granted the adoption annulled it last spring on a residency issue, but her ruling didn't come to light until appeal briefs were filed with the state supreme court last week."

In Little Rock, Ark., supporters of a two-pronged right-wing ballot are close to filing their petition. The ballot's measures include one "targeting illegal immigrants and another aimed at banning homosexuals from adopting or fostering children." The group behind the campaign, the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, already has 62,000 signatures, more than what is needed to get on the ballot for the November election, possibly galvanizing antigay voters to the polls.

In Madison, Wis., where residents are celebrating Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, gay couples have been warned that they can't gallivant over to California and get hitched. Doing so will result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to nine months in prison. "In 2006, voters approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman."

In more uplifting news, the Seattle Times reported that the Seattle Opera is hosting special LGBT nights during the upcoming season in an attempt to boost attendance. "Our [LGBT Night] guests will be able to socialize, make new friends, and network with other operagoers while attending performances at one of the premier opera companies. Opera is for everyone," said Seattle Opera's director of marketing and communications, Alvin Alexander Henry, in a prepared statement to the Times.

And file this under News of the Weird: Our neighbors across the Pond ran a story about the Bristol, England, city council's consorting with local gay rights groups over whether they were allowed to cut bushes in a park, Avon Gorg. Not everyone was pleased. "Tory councillor Peter Abraham said yesterday: 'How can it be discriminatory to clear land that might stop what is an illegal practice? We need to manage the Downs properly. For a long time we have been told that the scrubland needs to be opened up.'"

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Tricia Romano