Right: The beast with two heads?
The presidential election is now being viewed via the prism of Sen. John McCain's choice for VP, Gov. Sarah Palin. This election can now be defined as pre-Palin and post-Palin. Pre-Palin, gay rights advocates were sure that the social wedge issues that worked so well for George Bush's reelection in 2004 would be less of a factor, citing numerous polls and pointing to the various strides made on gay marriage in states like California and New York.
But in our post-Palin world, things aren't so certain. Thanks to his Palin pick, the "base" of the Republican Party, the social conservatives and evangelicals, have coalesced around John McCain, a candidate they were previously lukewarm about.
In this Post-Palin world, the social conservative wing is energized. An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor wonders what the Palin effect will look like in November, noting that two battleground states, Colorado and Florida, have wedge issues on the ballots. In Florida, voters will decide "whether to amend its constitution to recognize only marriage between a man and a woman as a legal union." Before Palin, the editorial notes, a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life cited Americans' number 1 issue as the economy, with health care and energy following. "Moral values" were a distant seventh place. We'll see if that holds, come November.
A Reuters article by Ed Stoddard reported on a three-day gathering of "values voters" in Washington this week, which Stoddard described as being "energized by the addition of Sarah Palin." She is a "perfect fit for this crowd: Devoutly Christian, staunchly opposed to abortion rights, a mother of five, and a moose hunter to boot."
It goes without saying that this is the same demographic that typically opposes gay marriage and gay rights overall. The article notes that Bush's reelection was due in part to the "religious base that was galvanized to the polls by issues such as opposition to abortion and hostility toward gay marriage."
The Contra Costa Times wonders if it's the "Last Stand on Same-Sex Marriage?" The piece notes that the two opposing sides on Proposition 8, which would amend California's constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal once again, have spent upward of $20 million on the campaign. One of the biggest donors is the National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey-based Mormon group that has donated nearly $1 million toward passing Prop. 8. The paper quoted executive director Brian Brown as saying that the outcome will "affect what our children will be taught about marriage, and it will affect our religious liberties."
But gay rights advocates are also contributing, says the Contra Costa Times. A Silicon Valley philanthropist, Kathy Levinson, calls Prop. 8 the "Gettysburg of our times" and is donating $100,000 toward the defeat of the measure.
Other organizations that have spent money to pass Prop. 8 include Knights of Columbus ($1.275 million); American Family Association ($500,000), and Focus on the Family ($414,000). The paper notes that much of the money is coming from outside the state.
Interestingly, gays in California fighting Proposition 8 have two unlikely advocates: Republicans and bishops. Business Wire circulated a press release from a group of Los Angeles County Republicans who staunchly oppose their party on Prop. 8. Several members of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, calling themselves Republicans Against 8, sent a letter to party chair Linda Boyd stating:
"Our fellow Republicans elected us to grow the party and elect fellow Republicans to office. How can we accomplish this goal when the party is so vocally advocating the elimination of Constitutional Rights for many Californians, including many on your own Executive Committee."
The members also took issue with the fact that at a town hall-style meeting on Prop. 8, those who opposed it were offered only three minutes to speak, while the rest of the time -- 90 minutes -- was scheduled for Prop. 8 supporters, a coalition called Protect Marriage. Republicans Against 8 spokesman Scott Schmidt said, "That's hardly equal time."
The release quotes David Rappel, a California delegate for McCain, as saying that the time would be better spent rallying "around actual Republican candidates like John McCain and Sarah Palin" instead of a "flawed" ballot initiative. Unfortunately, Rappel didn't mention why exactly one would rally around an antigay candidate such as Palin. Even former New York City mayor Ed Koch (who has long been rumored to be gay) has more sense than that. He told the New York Post, "Sarah Palin scares me."
The Angeleno Republicans are joined by six top California Episcopal bishops in their opposition to Prop. 8. The bishops' reasoning subverts previous arguments that gay marriage would undermine the fundamentals of marriage by saying that actually gay marriage promotes the fundamentals of marriage. The Los Angeles Times reports the bishops contend that "preserving the right of gays and lesbians to marry would enhance the 'Christian values' of monogamy, love and commitment."
The Right Reverend Jon J. Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles said at a news conference, "We do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage." The Times notes that while the bishops agreed overall on the right of gays to wed, they couldn't find common ground on if -- or how -- such marriages should be conducted. These issues will likely be discussed and possibly decided on by the Episcopal Church's governing body when it meets next July in Anaheim, Calif.
The education system is getting in on the action. Chicago hopes to join New York City in having a GLBT-only high school. According to the Chicago Tribune, the proposed school would be substantially larger than Harvey Milk High School in New York City, which currently has fewer than 100 students. Chicago public school officials expect up to 600 students and note that such as school is needed because gay students are at risk of missing class, dropping out, or even committing suicide because they fear being harassed. The Tribune reported that opponents of the school believe that it's inappropriate to mingle education with social issues, with Laurie Higgins of Illinois Family Institute saying such a school would be "a misuse of public funds" and "would require administrators to a take a moral stance on homosexuality, a judgment well above their pay grade."
California school boards, however, are discussing just such a moral stance. In the ramp-up to the Prop. 8 vote, he Los Angeles Times reports, members of school boards across the state are pushing for public stands for or against the ballot measure. The Times quotes Jim Kelly of the Grossmount Union High School District in San Diego County as saying that coming out in favor of Prop. 8 is important because the existence of same-sex marriage would affect the curriculum. "Once you start that game, why is it two people? Why can't it be more people? Why can't it be animals? You destroy the institution."
Not everyone is happy with the meddling: San Leandro school board president Ray David said he was abstaining from taking a position even though he, like his fellow board members, is against Proposition 8. He told the Times, "I will do everything in my power to convince other people not to support this [amendment]. But as a school board, our mission is for educating our children."
An odd collection of publications and websites reported on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's list of the 259 companies that scored 100% on its index of LGBT-friendliness for 2008. These include the National Jeweler Network, MSN.com, and the Birmingham Business Journal, which indulged in some self-flagellation, noting that no Alabama company made the list.
In other news, rumor has it that Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson plan to get married. Also: Sam Ronson chopped off her hair and dyed it brown. Looks much better.