As of middish October, the presidential and Senate-majority races remain too close to call, although there is wide consensus that the House should remain in GOP hands. If Obama wins and the Democrats retain the Senate, little will change with regard to LGBT issues—there will be supportive rhetoric, including advocacy for the repeal of the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) barring the federal government from extending benefits to same-sex couples—and perhaps some additional federal agency-controlled policies will be made friendlier to same-sex couples.
What if Romney wins and the GOP takes the Senate? The White House will voice its opposition to the Supreme Court overturning any part of DOMA, and federal agencies might seek some retrenchment on their policies that were helpful to gay couples. But Romney has indicated he won’t overturn the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on openly gay servicememebers. And so the fight for gay legal equality will focus on federal and state courts, and state legislatures.
But there is reason to expect that the GOP will continue a slow evolution on gay issues, evidenced by the fact that opposition to same-sex marriage, while in the GOP party platform, has not been a rallying cry of the Romney campaign, as Politico noted in GOP steers clear of gay marriage issue.
And, as the Cato Institute’s David Boaz points out, there is increasing evidence that opposition to marriage equality isn’t going to be a winning issue for Republicans going forward. Recent polls shows that majorities of voters in red/blue swing states now say they back gay marriage, of which Boaz comments, “No wonder Romney isn’t talking about it.”
Like the Canadian and British conservative parties, eventually the GOP will recognize it can distinguish itself ideologically as the party that’s more fiscally conservative and pro-free-enterprise / economic growth, while maintaining opposition to the Democratic party’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion on demand up to delivery and the forcing of religiously affiliated employers to provide free contraceptives and abortifacient drugs to their female employees (i.e., the Democrats’ “war on women” big lie), while supporting marriage for all couples on traditionally conservative grounds (as the leadership of the British Conservative party is doing), or, initially at least, pull back and not take a strong position (as the Canadian Conservative party appears to be doing).
Of course, national and local LGBT lobbies refusing to endorse, or actively working to defeat, GOP candidates who would take the party in this direction isn’t helping (but then, it isn’t meant to).
More. Examples of the above: GOP House candidates Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Nan Hayworth in New York, and Senate candidates Scott Brown in Massachusetts (who is being vigorously opposed by the once-nonpartisan Human Rights Campaign) and Linda McMahon in Connecticut.
Furthermore. Yes, I should also have mentioned Romney’s support for the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment—the position most likely to keep many gay Republicans from backing him. It’s indefensible, and a pullback from John McCain, even if he’s unlikely to push it (for reasons indicated above, plus his silence about it since securing the nomination). Moreover, even if the GOP takes control of the Senate, it would be far from having the necessary two-thirds majority to send such an amendment to the states. I’m not defending Romney, but these are facts as well.
Debate Update. Gay issues remain absent from the presidential debates, but the Washington Blade takes note that:
Mitt Romney brought up his belief in marriage as a means to reduce the culture of violence in response to a question about banning assault weapons, saying “we need moms and dads helping raise kids” and espousing “the benefit of having two parents in the home.” …
Romney never explicitly said he was excluding opposite-sex couples when touting the importance of a “two-parent family” as the correct way to raise children, but didn’t take the opportunity to say that marriage should be between one man, one woman.
More still. Paul Ryan says that reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would be “a step in the wrong direction” and that “this issue is past us.”
Comments blogger and attorney Doug Mataconis, “Now that we’ve lived with repeal for a year, and it’s clear that, as predicted, there are no adverse consequences to letting gays and lesbians serve openly…the GOP wants to put this issue behind them and move on. Eventually, I predict, they’ll be doing the same thing with regard to same-sex marriage.”
It’s worth recalling that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the unsung heroine of DADT repeal, exposing and confronting Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as he was quietly sabotaging the repeal effort.