Friday, May 16, 2008


Yesterday the California Supreme Court overturned a state statute banning same-sex marriage.

Cue the hand-wringing over “wedge issues” during an election year.

Obama’s and Clinton’s responses to the decision have been tepid, safe, and unenthusiastic. They both reaffirmed their belief that states, not federal government, should make decisions about who can be legally married, as did Senator McCain.

Clinton added that she would work to validate “civil unions” on the federal level.

Obama added that he opposes all “divisive and discriminatory constitutional amendments.”

Republican candidate McCain argued that the state supreme court had no right to overturn the popularly supported ban—ignoring the fact that the supreme court’s main function is precisely to determine the constitutionality of legislation and protect the rights of minorities against the oppression of the majority.

Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would support the court’s decision and continue to fight against a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage to be voted on in November.

Speaker of the US House Nancy Pelosi stated her approval for the court’s decision on the basis that it is in keeping with the state’s constitution and, like Schwarzenegger and Obama, condemned plans to add discriminatory language to that constitution in November.

I don’t think the California decision will complicate the upcoming Presidential election.

For one thing, the candidates’ positions on gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender issues were undoubtedly going to be used in campaigning, regardless of what happened in California. The Republicans love to paint Democrats as pervert-loving wimps (while they discretely restrict their manly adventures to airport restrooms). I can’t believe Limbaugh, Coulter, and their cohorts were not already planning to portray Obama himself as gay—and won’t be surprised when they do.

Also, Obama, Clinton, and McCain alike hold that states ought to define marriage for themselves. The disagreement over the California decision is not whether states can accept same-sex marriages (even McCain believes they can), but whether a supreme court has the right to overturn legislation that it feels violates the state constitution and, probably, whether the ban did in fact violate that constitution.

I, for one, think “wedge issues” can be good. Differences among the candidates should be made clear—though I understand that politically these differences are often unfairly exaggerated to instill fear and panic. Still, how McCain and Obama feel about the function and nature of supreme courts is, of course, of great importance.

Scare tactics over gays, blacks, feminists, etc., have most definitely worked for Republicans in the past.

But in 2008 the GOP has bigger problems—quite apart from the fact that the biggest “gay” scandals of the past two years have involved Republican politicians.

The war, the economy, health care, climate change, food and fuel shortages, slow and inadequate disaster response-systems, corporate welfare, torture, illegal surveillance, arrogant exploitation (and overreach) of Presidential powers. Do I go on?

In 2008 to vote Republican just because you hate homosexuals would be like voting for Mussolini because you want the trains to run on time.

And as long as idiots and haters are allowed to vote—and as long as political discourse and media coverage remain on a fifth-grade schoolyard level--, lies, spite, and diversionary tactics will continue to affect democratic processes. For that we cannot blame the issues.

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