COMMENTARY: It’s time for the gay community to change its Facebook status from “in a relationship with Democrats” to “single.”
With the latest CNN polls finding that a slight majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, is it time for us to accept that some of the people who used to be our enemies have become allies — or at least potential friends? I’m talking about conservatives.
While Democratic lawmakers are not loosing their sleep over “don’t ask, don’t tell,” our favorite conservative punching bags are taking stands to support equality for gays and lesbians.
Take Ann Coulter. She was recently dropped from right-wing website WorldNetDaily’s Taking America Back National Conference, a right-wing speaking gig. She drew a lot of criticism from her own fans when they found out that she was headlining Homocon, an event put together by GOProud, a gay Republican organization. When asked about the criticism from WorldNetDaily, she refused to back down. She told CBS News, “I’m sure I agree with GOProud more [often] than I do with at least half of my college audiences.”
HOMOCON is merely the latest example of conservatives of all ages lending at least tacit support to the cause of gay rights.
Whether or not you think he’s got all his marbles, Fox News’s Glenn Beck can now be counted as a gay rights supporter. When he was goaded recently by Bill O’Reilly, he voiced support for gay marriage. “Gay marriage,” he said “is no threat to America.” Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Beck told O’Reilly, “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?”
Tucker Carlson is speaking at an event hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans. Even Dick Cheney voiced support for gay marriage. And Ann Coulter said in an interview on Fox News, “I love gay people. I just don’t want them to get married.” How is this position different from that of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or any other leading Democrat?
Let’s also not forget that our movement’s biggest hero at the moment, lawyer Ted Olson, who just won the case against California’s Proposition 8, is the same man who convinced the Supreme Court to hand Bush the presidency in 2000.
People in politics can change their stripes. In the case of Democrats, they take us for granted. How is it possible that, for the last two years, we’ve had a Democratic House of Representatives, Senate, and White House, yet received only bread crumbs of progress on our most important issues?
Whether or not Republicans take control of either or both houses of Congress in November, it’s become increasingly clear that we won’t make progress as a movement,without more Republicans becoming our new “fierce advocates.” But when we decide to ally ourselves with liberal groups who’d rather have a dialogue with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than with open-minded conservatives, you can see why the pace of progress in Washington is so slow.
Most gay people have trouble accepting that Coulter is anything other than a hateful, homophobic bitch. She made headlines in 2007 when she said in a speech that she wouldn’t talk about John Edwards because “it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot.’” Upon seeing Coulter having dinner in a West Hollywood restaurant owned by a gay circuit party promoter, Rick Jacobs wrote in a Huffington Post piece about how he saw fit to go over to her table and harass her. After describing how physically ugly he finds her and fabricating lies that she called gay people “subhumans that should die,” he asks, “Did Hitler eat kosher food even as he worked out the final solution?”
As someone whose father lost his entire family in the Holocaust, I find Jacobs’s writing more offensive than anything Coulter has ever said. And this article was written by the man who is a founder of an organization called Courage Campaign, which fights for equality. You can’t fight for gay rights and at the same time, and in the Bolshevik tradition, attempt to silence anyone who disagrees with your opinions. Now, I’ve never heard of a restaurant where conservatives harass liberals for dining there. I don’t find Jacobs’s stand courageous, I find it low and going against everything this country was founded on.
Bill Maher, Ann Coulter’s counterpart on the left, is one exception. Maher is just like Coulter — provocative, smart, witty, funny, fearless. And maybe that’s what creates their affinity across party lines. When he announced her appearance on his TV show and his fans started to heckle her, he stopped them: “Shut up! This is what’s wrong with America. People don’t even want to listen to each other. She is a friend of mine, and you are going to listen.”
The reality in America is that Democratic and Republican governments alternate. Conservatives won’t disappear. If we want to make lasting progress, we have to work with them as much as we do with liberals. If a right-wing icon like Ann Coulter makes a move in our direction, we need to welcome her, not throw insults and pies in her face. We need to use her as an instrument to address her fan base. It’s a base that is not yet ours but has to become ours in order to make gay civil rights a durable reality in our country.