Tom Daley
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How Movable Is
John McCain? 

How Movable Is
            John McCain? 

With every new
presidential election, the gap between Democrats and
Republicans on gay issues grows steadily wider. Consider
some glaring differences:

During a June 26
Democratic fund-raiser hosted by the Gay and Lesbian
Leadership Council in New York, Michelle Obama declared,
“We are only here because of those who marched
and bled and died -- from Selma to Stonewall.”
And in a letter read to the San Francisco–based Alice
B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club this June, her husband
both pledged to “support extending fully equal
rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both
state and federal law” and sent his congratulations
to “all of you who have shown your love for
each other by getting married these last few
weeks.” Barack Obama is also undoubtedly the first
presidential candidate to repeatedly attack homophobia
in the black community, while speaking before black

When he was still
something of a maverick, John McCain did oppose the
2006 amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have
banned gay marriage. But now (unlike Obama) McCain
supports the California ballot initiative that would
reverse the decision of that state’s highest court
to legalize gay marriage (just as he supported the
unsuccessful attempt in 2006 to ban marriage equality
and roll back domestic-partner benefits in his home
state of Arizona). McCain also opposes the federal
Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed by the
Democrat-controlled House of Representatives last fall
-- and he continues to say he doesn’t know any
military commander who thinks “don’t ask,
don’t tell” is a bad idea. According to
the Human Rights Campaign, as McCain geared up for this
recent presidential bid, his pro-gay voting record plummeted
from 33% in the last Congress to just 17% in the
present one.

So why would any
gay person want to vote for McCain? 

John McCain (200807 Getty) x100 | 

At press time,
the Log Cabin Republicans still hadn’t formally
endorsed the presumptive GOP nominee, but their
website and their publicists (including New
editor Jamie Kirchick, who assembled all
of their arguments in a piece for last March)
make it clear that their support for McCain is a
foregone conclusion.

Though George W.
Bush and McCain both take the wrong positions on almost
every important gay issue, Log Cabin president Patrick
Sammon argues that the key difference is that McCain
won’t use them as wedge issues to “turn
out the Republican base.” But if he’s not
using us as a wedge, why did McCain publicly oppose
gay adoptions in The New York Times and throw
his support behind the California initiative to ban gay
marriage? Why did McCain’s campaign make robo-calls
during the primary to attack former Massachusetts
governor Mitt Romney’s past support of
“special rights” for gays? (When McCain was
criticized for those calls, he ended them.)

Sammon says he
sees a difference between simply having the wrong position
and “sending out direct mail and highlighting

Does that mean
the best you can hope for from a national Republican
presidential candidate is someone who stridently opposes
most gay rights but doesn’t actively energize
the antigay vote in the general election?

Sammon sidesteps
that query. “The question we need to answer is, Do we
think [McCain] can be moved on any issues if he’s
elected president?” he says. “I
don’t think it’s necessarily a wise strategy
for our movement to put all of its chips on one side
of the table; when there are some promising parts of
his records and there’s the potential to move

that mean support for McCain requires an act of faith on the
part of a gay voter -- and possibly a certain amount
of self-hatred? “Absolutely not,” Sammon
says. “Equality won’t be achieved until we
move Republicans. It would be easy for me to get mad
that more of them aren’t where they need to be.
It’s frustrating and it takes time, but I think
we’re making progress. For me to just give up might
feel good for 12 hours, but it doesn’t actually
improve things. You’re still going to need
Republican support to get anything done.”

Maybe so, but a
Democratic president with enhanced majorities in Congress
would produce much more progress on gay issues, much more

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