The culture war has been an unfortunate sideshow in national politics and has been gravely harmful to the LGBT community. The lowlight of the culture war was the 2004 national election, when many state Republican parties put gay marriage plebiscites on the ballot in order to increase turnout from the religious right.
I have a constitutional issue with ballot initiatives that vote upon the rights of others. The Constitution clearly protects the rights of every individual against the tyranny of the majority. Yet the strategy worked, and the anti-gay movement won as all 11 states that put a constitutional ban on gay marriage on the ballot voted yes and approved them.
Those were dark days for gays who support conservative principles, but the tide is changing for the better.
A recent positive flashpoint was when Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, and one of the most prominent conservatives, joined the GOProud advisory board (I am a board member of GOProud). The anti-gay Family Research Council launched an attack on Grover and GOProud that borders on the insane. Here is an excerpt from their web post:
“This is a group that opposes the death tax and ObamaCare — not because they aren’t sound economic policies — but because they ‘discriminate’ against ‘gay families.’
“And the platform doesn’t end there. One of the group’s top 10 ‘principles’ is to create ‘enterprise zones’ for homosexuals, despite the fact that the average income for gays and lesbians is higher than most everyone else. At least two other of its ‘principles’ call for the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. Among their other priorities: allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military and defeating any attempt to protect one-man, one-woman marriage.”
So the FRC represents a very unfortunate part of the conservative movement, but they are increasingly marginalized.
The blog pamshouseblend.com ran an insightful piece on the controversy. I had the opportunity to speak with Pam Spaulding and her comments were thus:
“The libertarian wing in both parties are just plain fatigued of listening to the pious, often hypocritical bleating from the religious right, and those in the GOP are apparently ready to give them the public heave ho. That’s where GOProud comes in. It has stirred up a hornet’s nest among the fundies; look at the Family Research Council’s head explosion over Grover Norquist being named to GOProud’s advisory board. Even worse, Norquist blew off FRC’s criticism. This has been long overdue, and it’s good to see sanity making a return on the right.”
Grover also sums it up well in the US News & World piece that profiled him: “The center-right is a ‘leave us alone’ coalition. If you look at why people are in the room, why people vote, why people get involved in politics, everybody in the center-right is there because on the issue that moves their vote, they want to be left alone.
“Taxpayers: ‘Leave my money alone.’ Gun owners: ‘Leave my guns alone.’ Home-schoolers: ‘Leave my kids alone.’ All the various communities of faith—evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons—the thing that matters to them is to be able to practice their faith and raise their kids. So the religious right, in terms of votes cast, it’s a defensive.”
In addition, the huge challenges that the nation faces—wars on two fronts, a severe recession and current and looming crippling deficits—have captured the focus of most conservatives. In this environment, those who target social issues seem out of touch with reality and out of date.
As the conservative movement becomes more inclusive and less focused on social issues, one can hope that the days of identity politics — that force many gays into feeling they have no choice but to vote Democratic — are over. We are getting there, but we still have some road ahead.