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March, 26th 2009

Rick Santorum can't be pleased

– Liz Mair

Rick Santorum is no doubt disturbed by something that happened today in New Hampshire: The state's House passed a bill to legalize gay marriage. That's a good thing in the eyes of Americans who, like me, have no problem with gay marriage and tend to struggle to identify real negatives associated with it.  But a closer look at the political situation surrounding marriage in New Hampshire is not so much heartening as it is fascinating-- at least to me, who finds deviation from commonly perceived partisan lines to be a matter of significant interest.

Here's what I find noteworthy, in particular: Per Pam's House Blend, "In the Senate, Republican Bob Clegg has introduced a bill giving gays - and other adults who don't choose to marry - the same legal rights as married couples"  AND "The governor opposes gay marriage..." (Pam's emphasis, not mine).  Why is this something that I find attention-grabbing?  Well, the Republican Senator here seems to be more aggressively pro-extension-of-legal-rights than Democratic Rep. Mo Baxley, whose bill is the one that passed-- and, er, the Governor of New Hampshire-- the one who opposes gay marriage-- is a... Democrat

This situation leads Pam to ponder "How can advocacy orgs feel comfortable investing resources in one party when it's clear that an unfortunate number of Dems are perfectly capable of working against equality and hindering progress even when they have political cover and control." 

Well, that's something I've been wondering about for years.  Despite the fact that the GOP is much, much more associated with the cause of "protecting" traditional marriage (I put "protecting" in quotation marks because I have a traditional marriage and feel less and less threatened as time goes on by the idea of gay couples also marrying), I've known a large number of Republicans for some time who have no, or no significant, issue with gay marriage-- and, of course, Democrats who do.  A lot of politicians, irrespective of partisan affiliation, back civil unions but not marriage, which doesn't especially bother me.  But it does make me wonder what groups that have been more associated with the Democratic Party do when faced with what look like increasingly shifting attitudes and perspectives towards gay marriage and, frankly, gay issues (for lack of a better term) and the fact that more and more Republicans seem to be changing (and, let's go ahead and say it, moderating or liberalizing their views) while some Democrats aren't moving, or aren't moving in the same direction.

Increasingly, I think we're going to find the answer to Pam's question is that the advocacy groups won't feel comfortable investing those resources-- financial or otherwise-- in one party.  And actually, that's already evident in certain, specific cases.  Last year, the Human Rights Campaign, once regularly, and still often, perceived by socially moderate Republicans as predisposed to supporting to Democrats-- liberal or conservative-- in fact endorsed moderate Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins.  In Utah, Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman supports same-sex civil unions; one can conjecture, based on his 2006 vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, that Democratic Utah Rep. Jim Matheson does not.  One can imagine that in Utah, usually perceived as having a pretty conservative population, whether we're talking Blue Dog Dems like Matheson or Republicans like Huntsman, the choice between Democrat and Republican for these groups is looking a little blurry just now.

Santorum probably doesn't much like that.  But, much as I in principle think bright line distinctions can be helpful in presenting voters with easily discernable choices, where this issue is specifically concerned, I must say that I do. [intro]

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