GOP Evolves, Slowly: From Bork, via Kennedy, to Gingrich

by Stephen H. Miller on December 20, 2012

On the passing of failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork (who was, infamously, “borked“) we recall that he denounced “the radical redefinition of marriage” to include same-sex couples and backed a federal constitutional amendment to prevent any state from recognizing same-sex marriage. He also said lots of other bad stuff about the “normalization of homosexuality” and “the libertarian virus.” After Bork’s borking, President Reagan nominated conservative jurist Anthony Kennedy, who turned out to be a stalwart supporter of gay legal equality, penning decisions overturning the sodomy laws that Bork defended, and holding that states could not use anti-gay animus as a justification for denying constitutional rights to gay people.

The court will shortly rule on the constitutionality of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Now, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has announced a change of heart on the issue of marriage equality, from virulent opposition to resigned acceptance. And thus progress is made.

More. Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, has retracted homophobic comments he made 14 years ago, as his hopes to be nominated as Secretary of State dim. Barney Frank is unforgiving (but we should all forget Frank’s shameful role in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac meltdown, and all his other personal and political scandals).

If we don’t let people (that is, Republicans) evolve on gay issues, then why should they evolve? But the last thing progressive Democrats want to see is a GOP that could actually compete for gay votes.

Still more. The Log Cabin Republicans also are wrong to oppose Hagel based on now-recanted anti-gay views. If they want to oppose him because of foreign policy disagreements, fine. But to tell Republicans it doesn’t matter if they evolve is directly counter to the group’s mission.

Furthermore. Glenn Greenwald finds the LCR ad suspicious, for several reasons.

And more still. James Kirchick argues that not to evolve until a Cabinet post is dangled in front of you, and then to do so half-heartedly, is not to evolve at all. It’s about the best argument in support of LCR’s position, but I tend to agree that the opposition to Hagel has more to do with his perceived weakness on support for Israel and opposition to Iran (and his positions are certainly open to debate), then on gay matters. And if that’s the case, then LCR has been played. I hope it doesn’t indicated what the post-R. Clarke Copper leadership will be like.

{ 34 comments }

Jorge December 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

For some reason, I just don’t like being the subject of “resigned acceptance” from someone who has it in him to do and say more when it comes to other issues.

Gingrich has always been a pragmatist. He has not always been a trendsetter.

I suppose you have to be satisfied when someone like him starts piping down.

Tom Scharbach December 21, 2012 at 8:28 am

The court will shortly rule on the constitutionality of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Now, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has announced a change of heart on the issue of marriage equality, from virulent opposition to resigned acceptance. And thus progress is made.

The Speaker’s “change of heart” wasn’t a change of position (he continues to believe that marriage is “between a man and a woman”, but distinquishes that from a “legal document issued by the state”) so much as an acceptance of reality, and he does not seem particularly hopeful that the Republican Party will, in fact, change any time soon (“… this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with …”):

“While he continued to profess a belief that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, he suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” — the latter being acceptable.”

“I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with,” he said, noting that the debate’s dynamics had changed after state referenda began resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage. “It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.

I am glad to see each and every indication of progress within the Republican Party, although I am, like the Speaker, a realist. I know that it will be a decade (at least) before the Republican Party becomes a party that endorses “equal means equal”, and that we will have to continue to use the Democratic Party and the courts as our change agents for the foreseeable future.

The Republican Party has a structural problem that we did not face in the Democratic Party — a core of commited social conservatives who constitute a significant percentage of the “base” that determines who survives Republican primaries. Unless and until pro-equality conservatives can neutralize that base, Republican politicians will not, except in rare cases, act as change agents for equality.

Houndentenor December 21, 2012 at 10:10 am

Thrice married serial adulterer Gingrich was hardly an appropriate standard barrier for “traditional marriage.” Considering his history of political whoredom, no one should be impressed that he has changed a position based on the national mood. He’ll say anything to get attention.

Don December 21, 2012 at 10:37 am

I did read an interesting article on Bork’s legacy. His confirmation hearings were legendary for many reasons. Curiously though they set the battle lines for the past 30 years. Liberals capitulated on fiscal conservatism as having some validity and they would compromise on those lines. But social conservatism had no validity and they would take the fight on that front instead.

Although its the furthest thing from what Bork would have wanted, he did have a profound effect by inadvertently drawing the battle lines to ensure gay rights would eventually go our way.

To think how much he despised libertarians and yet he handed them the best gift he could give

Houndentenor December 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I like Chuck Hagel. I disagree with him on many things but I always found him intelligent and well-informed in his many Sunday morning talk show appearances. Yes, some of the left disapprove of him as the nominee, but the loudest voices against Hagel are coming from the right and seem well-orchestrated. You conveniently ignored them. If I were on cam nownyou could see me practicing my “shocked” expression.

Tom Scharbach December 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm

If we don’t let people (that is, Republicans) evolve on gay issues, then why should they evolve?

Everyone who cares about equality should encourage Republicans to evolve. Conservatives who care about equality should get involved in the Republican Party at local, state and national levels and push for evolution, as Democrats did in their own party over a thirty year period. No one who cares about equality should support any politician, of either party, who continues to oppose equality.

It is really that simple.

But the last thing progressive Democrats want to see is a GOP that could actually compete for gay votes.

A crock, to be polite about it. A longstanding, oft-repeated, factually unsupported, paranoid delusion, to be blunt.

Houndentenor December 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Yes, because it’s Barney Frank keeping the Republicans from coming around on gay rights. Yeah, that’s what it is!

What color is the sky in the fantasy world in which Stephen H. Miller lives where the only thing standing between the GOP and gays is those mean old progressives and their all-powerful disapproval?

Doug December 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Maybe after more angry old white homophobes die the GOP can come to it’s senses. Where are Sarah Palin’s death panels when we need them.

Houndentenor December 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Like so many things, it exists only in Palin’s paranoid delusions. to think a major party actually put her on the ticket.

George Akerley December 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Gingrich’s stamp of approval isn’t all that surprising, and I have to give the man a little bit of credit (for the first time).
Progress is, after all, progress. For those of us brought up in a specific method, led to believe that there was only one way to have romance, love and marriage, it was often a struggle to come to terms with the reality that we found. Hey-better late than never!

JohnInCA December 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm

… if Republicans need Democrat support in order to change on gay issues, I think gay Republicans are doing it wrong.

Jorge December 21, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Re: Chuck Hagel: Nobody cares what Barney Frank thinks.

Doug December 22, 2012 at 1:12 am

Is it merely a coincidence that Hagel retracts his anti-gay remarked at exactly the time he is being considered for a cabinet position? I think not. If Hagel was truly sorry for his remarks he would have apologized to Ambassador Hormel personally before making a statement to the newspapers.

Houndentenor December 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

That is a symptom of our current political/media culture. Hagel saw the need to apologize so he did it in a press release rather than contacting Hormel. There’s no concept of personal damage done to someone’s reputation. Of course not. It was then, as now, just “politics”. Hormel is right to insist on a personal apology. I think it’s unlikely that he’ll get one. The only example of that I can think of is David Brock’s apology to Anita Hill, and that one was far too little and far too late.

Jorge December 22, 2012 at 11:38 am

I have a need to make mention of some of the recent remarks the Pope has made on gay marriage, in which he accused people of manipulating their god-given gender and manipulating their own human nature, and stated that gay marriage was a threat to world peace. Merry Christmas, everybody.

I’ll sit out on this event for a bit, but I will not ignore it.

The Pope is a politician. He is speaking deceptive half-statements when he knows full well the whole truth. Only someone who accepts a flawed truth or who is willing to work with a flawed truth can become the Pope–that is not the problem. But the Church is silent on the ways homophobia destroys families and destroys world peace. That is why what the Pope said is about politics more than ethics. For this hypocrisy, the Catholic Church’s comeuppance will come very slowly. Here in the United States, the people can and will hold its politicians accountable for the words they say and how they pursue justice.

Houndentenor December 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I think it’s already happening. As much as someone of us my want the backlash to be speedy, this is a large slow-moving organization so it should come as no surprise that the response to the church’s actions has been slow as well. People are leaving the church, and as they leave the tyrants that run it will squeeze hard to cling to their power which will run even more people off. The church hierarchy is still living in the middle ages when they had true political and social power. The change will be slow in coming. After all, they just got around to apologizing for persecuting Galileo in the 1990s.

As for the hypocrisy, is there a bigger hypocrite on our planet than Ratzinger? he keeps a male lover in the Vatican and then goes out and gives speeches about the perils of homosexual behavior. Who does he think he’s kidding denouncing the gays while wearing red Prada shoes? Girl, please.

Yesterday, British television had to keep reminding viewers who were watching LaPierre’s speech that this was not a parody. I think we should do the same with speeches from the Vatican. “No, really, they actually said this!”

Jorge December 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Gooooood evening Houndentenor.

What male lover in the Vatican?

Tom Jefferson III December 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

1. Newt has a lesbian half-sister and (back in the day) I am told he made quite a few homophobic statements, not to mention have a rather poor voting record. It may not have been sincere hatred, just politics or, as they say, just business. He is trying to keep his name in the proverbial conservative hat, given the fact that Mitt and most of the 2012 GOP primary candidates are probably not going to be serious candidates for major office again.

2. I am not too interested in what Chuck or Barney said 15 years ago. I can appreciate Barney’s anger because he was one of the first openly gay Congressmen and back in the 1980s and 1990s, many politicians said anti-gay things or voted for anti-gay policies and then told Barney “hey, its just business”

TomJeffersonIII December 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

—I have a need to make mention of some of the recent remarks the Pope has made on gay marriage

I am Catholic, but my boyfriend is Jewish. We both come from a religious-cultural tradition with lots of guilt. ;0)

We also — for different reasons — are not terribly prone to seeking out the current Pope for religious or philosophical advice. He does not believe in J.C. (or the Pope) and think that the Catholic Church has done plenty of damage to the Catholic faith.

Jorge December 26, 2012 at 9:06 am

We also — for different reasons — are not terribly prone to seeking out the current Pope for religious or philosophical advice. He does not believe in J.C. (or the Pope) and think that the Catholic Church has done plenty of damage to the Catholic faith.

Oh, I have a question on that.

If you choose a label of Catholic for your faith, and see a Church that does damage

was there ever a time when the Church was pure, or is the very idea of a Church in response to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus a deviation from what is the truth? (This heresy, and the one before, are brought to you by none other than our current scholar-Pope. I haven’t yet read his explanation for why the Church is the way.)

Perhaps more relevant, if you are a Catholic, how pure do you think the Catholic Church is right now?

John D December 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm

It’s probably true that progressive Democrats wouldn’t want to compete with Republicans for gay voters. Luckily for the progressives, this seems as unlikely as Republicans worrying that they will have to compete with conservative Democrats for evangelical voters.

Over the last thirty years, the Democrats have drifted slightly to the right while the Republicans have moved sharply right. This is why it’s so easy to find positions advocated by Nixon and Reagan that are out of line in the current Republican party. Are we really going to see Obama suggest Nixon-era wage and price controls?

But as for “letting” Republicans “evolve” (not so much “change over time” but plain old “progress”) on gay rights, well, I don’t see how any non-Republicans are impeding them. If anything, by continuing to not vote for anti-gay Republicans, I feel I am helping the Republican party on this issue. The day I am faced with a Republican candidate who agrees with me on the issues is the day I (again) vote for a Republican. It has happened before.

I would be interested in seeing what Stephen Miller proposes can be done by non-Republicans to help the Republicans come to a realization that you cannot lead while marginalizing and demonizing part of body politic. Clearly we shouldn’t be rewarding anti-gay politicians by voting for them (and in my Congressional district I have the choice between the anti-gay incumbent and the Democrat). What should we do?

Houndentenor December 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

He wants Republicans to be above criticism. I’ll say to Hagel what I said about Bill Clinton. If he really feels bad about DOMA, then he can work to get the law repealed. Otherwise I’m not impressed. Talk is cheap. I’m impressed by what people do, not what they say.

Houndentenor December 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm
Tom Scharbach December 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Well, so much for “people (that is, Republicans)” letting “people (that is, Republicans)” evolve on LGBT issues.

It will be interesting to watch Stephen find a way to spin this turd of an ad by LCR into a principled statement reflecting the growing “evolution” of the Repuglican Party (necessary to keep sitting at the table, perhaps) and bash HRC and OutServe-SLDN for recognizing Hagel’s apology and being half-way rational about it:

OutServe-SLDN: “We are pleased that Senator Hagel recognized the importance of retracting his previous statement about Ambassador Hormel and affirming his commitment to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal and LGBT military families. We look forward to learning more about his commitment to full LGBT military equality as this nomination and confirmation process unfolds.

HRC: “Senator Hagel’s apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former Senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues. Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we’re proud that Senator Hagel is one of them.

Of the two, I think that OutServe-SLDN’s statement is the better. It accepts Hagel’s “evoluntion” while holding his feet to the fire.

Doug December 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I do the believe that the GOP is evolving, rather it’s being dragged kicking and screaming all the way. Just like the abortion issue, it will never be settled for the GOP, the hard core will always try to put gay people back into the closet.

Tom Scharbach December 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

The Log Cabin Republicans also are wrong to oppose Hagel based on now-recanted anti-gay views. If they want to oppose him because of foreign policy disagreements, fine. But to tell Republicans it doesn’t matter if they evolve is directly counter to the group’s mission.

Stephen, I think that it is worse than that …

If the LCR ad had said that it didn’t believe Hagel’s apology, or thought that it was too little too late, or whatever, that would have been one thing.

But that ad is quite another thing altogether. The LCR ad doesn’t acknowledge the fact that Hagel has changed his views and apologized. Not at all. It ignores the facts. It is a lie of omission, pure and simple, and attacks Hagel on false pretenses.

I was surprised to see the ad. I have had some respect for LCR in the past. No longer. LCR has turned into just another fact-free right-wing attack dog.

Houndentenor December 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I agree the ad is pure nonsense. At least they should have acknowledged that Hagel has since apologized for his remarks from 20 years ago. But what can you expect from people who inhabit the cognitive dissonance of being gay and Republican.

Tom Scharbach January 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Speaking of evolution, the Chair of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady, is lobbying Republican lawmakers on behalf of marriage equality.

I wouldn’t read too much into it, though. Brady has been under fierce criticism within the party after this year’s election drubbing, and conservatives have been calling for his resignation for the last couple months.

BTW, does anyone know whether the LCR has been doing any work on marriage equality in Illinois? The vote might come this week.

Tom Scharbach January 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I think I found the answer> tp my question about what LCR is doing on the marriage equality bill that might be voted on in Illinois this week: “Log Cabin Republicans’ spokesman Jonathan Edelman acknowledged that they worked through the legislative branch to legalize civil unions in Illinois. However, given legislative resistance to gay marriage, the organization now claims it is a matter for the courts.

Houndentenor January 3, 2013 at 12:14 pm

WTF?

Tom Scharbach January 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm

WTF

First, as to Pat Brady, the Chair of the Illinois Republican Party who appears to have “evolved” on LGBT issues, and in particular, marriage equality.

Two years ago, in August 2010, he created a shit storm for himself, as reported by “Republican News Watch”, a conservative blog authored by Doug Ibendahl , former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party:

The folks at HillBuzz.org dropped a major bombshell this morning. They’re reporting that they have what they consider to be “unimpeachable sources” who say that Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady referred to the HillBuzz.org writers as a “bunch of fucking faggots.” That exact slur was reportedly uttered by Pat Brady – obviously in the presence of others – just this weekend./blockquote>

But that hostility seems to have changed. I confirmed with a friend in Equality Illinois that Brady has, in fact, been pushing hard for marriage equality, calling Republican lawmakers, particularly those from the collar counties. He’s been public about his support for marriage equality, and the news has been reported widely in the Illinois mainstream press. So I think that it is real. What is motivating him, I don’t know. He’s not shown any evidence of being gay-friendly in the past that I’ve heard about.

Whatever is going on, the reality is that Brady’s help is important. Marriage equality will probably need several Republican votes to pass this week. NOM has just announced that it will work to eliminate any Republicans who vote for marriage equality from the Illinois legislature, if not the earth.

Brady will probably not survive this. The social conservatives in the party, who were already after him on other issues, are gathering like wolves, and it isn’t going to get any better over time. But he is doing the right thing.

As to the LCR, I can’t find much evidence that anything is happening.

Illinois LCR is headed up by Caitlin Huxley, who lives in the Boy’s Town neighborhood of Chicago. I don’t know him, so I can’t call him to find out anything. Illinois LCR’s Facebook page does have one entry urging LCR’s to thank Pat Brady, but is otherwise silent on the legislative initiative. Ditto for Illinois LCR’s Twitter.

National LCR’s website is silent – no alerts, no action items. National LCR’s Twitter has two tweets relating to Illinois, both links to news articles. Again, no alerts, no calls to action.

I can’t help but contrast this to Equality Illinois, which has been sending hourly updates via e-mail, has five staffers on the ground lobbying in Springfield, is beating the bushes to get members to call their legislators, and has active Twitter and Facebook updates, including a live feed from Senate Committee Room 212, where the Senate Executive Committee hearing, blocked by Republicans last night, is underway.

Tom Scharbach January 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I seem to be HTML challenged again today. Here’s a properly formatted version:

WTF

First, as to Pat Brady, the Chair of the Illinois Republican Party who appears to have “evolved” on LGBT issues, and in particular, marriage equality.

Two years ago, in August 2010, he created a shit storm for himself, as reported by “Republican News Watch”, a conservative blog authored by Doug Ibendahl , former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party:

The folks at HillBuzz.org dropped a major bombshell this morning. They’re reporting that they have what they consider to be “unimpeachable sources” who say that Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady referred to the HillBuzz.org writers as a “bunch of fucking faggots.” That exact slur was reportedly uttered by Pat Brady – obviously in the presence of others – just this weekend.

But that hostility seems to have changed. I confirmed with a friend in Equality Illinois that Brady has, in fact, been pushing hard for marriage equality, calling Republican lawmakers, particularly those from the collar counties. He’s been public about his support for marriage equality, and the news has been reported widely in the Illinois mainstream press. So I think that it is real. What is motivating him, I don’t know. He’s not shown any evidence of being gay-friendly in the past that I’ve heard about.

Whatever is going on, the reality is that Brady’s help is important. Marriage equality will probably need several Republican votes to pass this week. NOM has just announced that it will work to eliminate any Republicans who vote for marriage equality from the Illinois legislature, if not the earth.

Brady will probably not survive this. The social conservatives in the party, who were already after him on other issues, are gathering like wolves, and it isn’t going to get any better over time. But he is doing the right thing.

As to the LCR, I can’t find much evidence that anything is happening.

Illinois LCR is headed up by Caitlin Huxley, who lives in the Boy’s Town neighborhood of Chicago. I don’t know him, so I can’t call him to find out anything. Illinois LCR’s Facebook page does have one entry urging LCR’s to thank Pat Brady, but is otherwise silent on the legislative initiative. Ditto for Illinois LCR’s Twitter.

National LCR’s website is silent – no alerts, no action items. National LCR’s Twitter has two tweets relating to Illinois, both links to news articles. Again, no alerts, no calls to action.

I can’t help but contrast this to Equality Illinois, which has been sending hourly updates via e-mail, has five staffers on the ground lobbying in Springfield, is beating the bushes to get members to call their legislators, and has active Twitter and Facebook updates, including a live feed from Senate Committee Room 212, where the Senate Executive Committee hearing, blocked by Republicans last night, is underway.

Clayton January 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Late entry, I know, and its’ doubtful that anyone will read it, but Stephen wrote: “If we don’t let people (that is, Republicans) evolve on gay issues, then why should they evolve?”

I’m not sure who “we” is supposed to be. Is “we” gay people? Liberals? It seems to be one or the other. I don’t know about Stephen, but I’m not aware of either gays or liberals holding Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas or Rick Santorum down on the pavement and shouting, “If you evolve, you’ll be eating a knuckle sandwich!” It seems to me that there are only two possible parties impeding the evolution of Republican political figures:
1) the figures themselves.
2) The right-wing base, which many politicians fear offending.

Speaking as a gay liberal, I welcome the social evolution of all people formerly opposed to gay rights, including Chuck Hagel, no matter what party they belong to.

Shadow Chaser January 5, 2013 at 10:55 am

As a center/left Democrat, I welcome any evolution within the Republican party when it comes to equality for GLBT citizens.

I know how to count and that the magic number is 50 percent plus one. While I know several Democrats who are supportive of equality for gay men and lesbians, I also know several who for whatever reasons cannot or won’t give their support for equality. These people aren’t bad people, often their religious formation pre-empted any possibility of support for gay rights.

Likewise, not all members of the GOP are anti-gay. Some Republicans are libertarian in their views of gay rights, some are socially liberal while others have “evolved.”

I suspect when legislatures in places such as Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania vote on issues concerning gay equality, most but not all Democratic legislators will be supportive and that the votes that will put such measure in law will come from a handful of Republican supporters.

Viva la difference!

As I have written in the past, I remain a practicing Catholic (one day I just might get it right). To be honest, I am very optimistic about the Church and gay rights . Oh, I don’t expect the members of the hierarchy to change their minds in my lifetime. However, we are winning the battle for the hearts, minds and souls of the Catholics in the pews. Polls indicate that Catholics lead all Christians in the U.S. in their support of legal recognition (civil unions and/or civil marriage) for same sex couples. Hey, us Catholics believe marriage is a sacrament …

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: