Equality Under the Law Applies Nationally

Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General Ed Meese, a social conservative who supported the federal marriage amendment that would have limited marriage throughout the U.S. to opposite-sex unions, now argues we should let states, not courts, decide marriage policy.

Sorry, Ed, that ship has sailed. You and your fellow social conservatives should have taken the deal when it was on the table.

Anti-Gay Groups Favor Democrats to Pro-Gay Republicans

The anti-gay, marriage-restricting activists at the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council Action, and CitizenLink “will mount a concerted effort to urge voters to refuse to cast ballots” for Republican House candidates Carl DeMaio in California and Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby in Oregon, reports Buzzfeed, citing a letter sent to Republican congressional and campaign leaders last week.

As someonet tweeted me, these groups are now in effect campaigning for Democrats to win in these races.

Like some “progressive” LGBT activists, their worst nightmare is gay and pro-gay Republicans being elected.

Let’s Go to the Stats

Pew Research takes a look at public opinion in the U.S. regarding homosexuality as sin, same-sex marriage, and requiring businesses to provide services to gay weddings.

The big news is that support for same-sex marriage has fallen from 54% last year to 50%. Says Pew:

It is too early to know whether this is an anomaly or the beginning of a reversal or leveling off of the growth in support for same-sex marriage widely observed in polls over the past decade.

This was noted, accurately, by the Wall Street Journal’s law blog, and for ideological purposes by by the National Organization for Marriage.

But for me, a more troubling finding is that 50 percent of all Americans consider homosexuality to be a sin, up from 45 percent last year. This mini-backlash (if that’s what it is) may be related to judicial victories for marriage equality in appellate courts, the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, and perhaps to local rulings that small business owners must bake cakes and photograph gay weddings even if they have religious objections to these assignments and would prefer to let their competitors take these gigs.

In other words, some of the backlash may be an inevitable result of progress toward equality under the law, and some may be self-inflicted by activists who would violate others liberty in order to compel ideological conformity.

Marriage Politics

“[S]everal forces, political as well as demographic, may converge to render a presidential candidacy by [Rob] Portman, the Ohio Republican U.S. senator, as at least nominally viable,” writes Stephen Koff, Washington bureau chief for Cleveland’s Plain Dealer. About a potential run by Portman, one of a handful of GOP congressmembers who support marriage equality, Koff observes:

Key to this is the fact that a Portman candidacy could align with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that would end the legal and constitutional fight over same-sex marriage. Such a ruling could come by next summer, well before the Republican voters go to the first 2016 caucuses and primaries. …

Patrick Egan, a New York University political scientist who has studied public opinion and gay and lesbian issues in politics, said, “My sense is that in their heart of hearts, Republican Party leaders would very much like to see the issue of gay marriage taken off the political agenda for 2016 and beyond.”

A credible run by Portman would signal a profound shift in the GOP. However, as Koff noted, that would be predicated on a Supreme Court ruling that takes marriage off the political table. But last week, liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that if the appellate circuits keep finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage (albeit in decisions that are invariably stayed), then there is “no need for us to rush.”

That could mean several years delay as each of the circuits address the issue. So, ironically, supporters of marriage equality (as opposed to those who would like to keep the issue brewing as a culture war hot point, for political mobilization purposes), should be hoping that the Sixth Circuit (covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) breaks ranks and upholds state bans on same-sex marriage, as law professor and IGF contributing author Dale Carpenter writes it seems poised to do. That would create a split among the circuits that would dramatically hasten the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter.

ENDA Is Passé

Openly gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) hopes to get half the members of the House to sign a discharge petition that would force a vote on a revised Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The reformulated ENDA would limit the current bill’s exemption for religious organizations, including religiously affiliated private schools and charities. The narrowed exemption might apply only to ministerial positions, which would be a deal-killer for many/most of ENDA’s current House GOP co-sponsors, and I suspect also some Democrats. And although ENDA already was passed in the Senate, with revised language it would stall there as well during reconciliation.

The dilemma: Without a sharply curtailed exemption, many LGBT activists have announced they will no longer support ENDA.

In short, ENDA still is likely to be on a road going nowhere, although the discharge petition endeavor will try to mobilize LGBT voters in the midterms (it’s also supported by openly gay GOP congressional candidates Carl DeMaio and Richard Tisei).

Despite these efforts, ENDA increasingly seems like inside beltway baseball for politicos and activists; it’s no longer generating any real interest among gay voters, whose passion is directed toward marriage equality.

Dinner with Log Cabin Republicans

Tonight I attended the Log Cabin Republicans’ Annual Spirit of Lincoln dinner in Washington, D.C. Guests of honor I spotted at the reception or dinner included Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), along with openly gay congressional candidates Carl DeMaio (Calif) and Richard Tisei (Mass.) I chatted with tax activist Grover Norquist (always affable) and journalist friend James Kirchick. Texas Log Cabin folks at my table entertained with tales of battling against their hidebound state party.

Tom Wahl, Jr., the chairman of the Liberty Education Forum, spoke of working to change opposition to gay legal equality in the deep south and elsewhere, Republican to Republican—a campaign I believe will be more effective than a more highly publicized effort being undertaken by an LGBT progressive organization.

The first keynoter was supply-side economist Larry Kudlow, who talked about Reagan’s embrace of big-tent Republicanism, and why we need to make the case that unshackling American enterprise from excessive taxation and regulation is good for middle and working class Americans. He called for passage of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (I wonder if he knows many leading LGBT activists are now against ENDA because of its exemption for religious organizations). Then Mary Cheney spoke movingly about the necessity for marriage equality, and why we will not have true equality for LGBT Americans until both parties are onboard, and signs that this is now happening thanks to the efforts of Log Cabin Republicans and others working within the GOP.

Giving credence to Cheney’s view, in the Washington Examiner Carmen Fowler LaBerge, who “advocates on social issues from a Christian conservative position” announced “I’ll probably get myself in trouble — but I’m going to do it anyway: I think there’s a growing consensus that the culture war on marriage has been lost.” Other articles have noted that “culture war” issues are now working in Democrats’ favor.

What can’t go on forever won’t, and the GOP’s opposition to full legal equality for gay people, including the freedom to marry, is one of those things.

Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate

A Michel Lind hit piece at Salon against libertarian investor Peter Thiel suggests, among other very bad things, that he’s anti-gay. Lind writes:

Peter Thiel wouldn’t be on any publication’s list of leading “public intellectuals” if he were a failed investor who worked in obscurity at a law firm or investment bank and, in his spare time, wrote defenses of anti-gay slurs and denunciations of female suffrage and endorsements of seasteading for the libertarian intellectual ghetto.

The evidence for the anti-gay charge? Lind quotes from a Fortune article:

In 1995 he and Sacks published a book called The Diversity Myth, in which they argued that in the campus context, “those persons complaining about oppression are generally not the ones to have experienced it firsthand.” In one disturbing passage they come to the defense of a law student friend who in 1992 had shouted an antigay slur outside the cottage of a gay resident fellow as a protest against campus speech codes. The authors argue that the law student’s near-universal execration afterward, official and unofficial, was disproportionate to his offense.

What Lind somehow fails to mention is that Thiel has long been openly gay, a rarity in the top echelons of Silicon Valley. In fact, this very morning on CNBC he was asked, as an openly gay man, about the lack of openly gay CEOs in America (he said times were changing and we’d be seeing more). But that wouldn’t fit into Lind’s, or Salon’s, anti-business, anti-libertarian, anti-anti-left narrative.

Primary Night

Openly gay business professor Dan Innis has lost his GOP primary bid to represent New Hampshire’s first district. In Massachusetts, scandal-tarred Democratic incumbent Rep. John Tierney was defeated in the Democratic primary, which means openly gay GOP Republican challenger Richard Tisei is now much less likely to prevail in the general election (although it would be nice to see the Human Rights Campaign endorse him, given no Democratic incumbent in the race and no prospect of the Democrats reclaiming the House).

That leaves San Diego’s Carl DeMaio as the openly gay GOP congressional candidate with a real shot at winning. DeMaio, of course, is not backed by either HRC (which is loath to support any Republican, whether gay, gay-supportive or otherwise) nor the Victory Fund (which did support Innis and Tisei).

DeMaio, while serving on the San Diego city council, spearheaded public pension reforms detested by government employee unions, which seems more important to LGBT “nonpartisan” but progressive groups then his support for marriage equality, or even his pro-choice stance on abortion (another Victory Fund litmus test). Log Cabin Republicans, however, are energetically working on his behalf.

A positive sign: Monica Wehby, a Republican Senate candidate in Oregon, unveils a TV spot highlighting her support for marriage equality. It’s “a reflection of the rapidly shifting politics of the issue,” says Politico.

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Remembering Joan

I found this video of the late Joan Rivers discussing her mortality with daughter Melissa surprisingly moving.

Rivers was a Republican, and as her friend Peggy Noonan explained, this is:

…always a surprising thing in show business, and in a New Yorker, but she was one because, as she would tell you, she worked hard, made her money with great effort, and didn’t feel her profits should be unduly taxed. … Mostly she just couldn’t tolerate cant and didn’t respond well to political manipulation. … She was socially liberal in the sense she wanted everyone to find as many available paths to happiness as possible.

Rivers was, throughout her career, gay supportive, and The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus performed at her funeral.

Battle Lines

Judge Richard Posner, appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1981, wrote the unanimous decision on behalf of a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down state bans on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and Indiana. This line from Judge Posner is echoing all over the blogosphere:

“Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.”

Given that two other federal appeals courts have struck down bans in Virginia and in Utah and Oklahoma (both decisions stayed pending appeal), “The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the gay marriage issue during its coming term, which starts in October and ends in June 2015,” reports Reuters.

On the other side, this week Federal District Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana upheld that state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving an indication of the hoary old arguments that the anti-equality side will marshal before the highest court. To wit:

“This Court is persuaded that Louisiana has a legitimate interest … whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others … in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents.”

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