Former President Bill Clinton has joined President Obama – a man whose 2008 presidential campaign Clinton once referred to as a “fairy tale” – in advocating for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill he signed into law in 1996.
Clinton, in an op-ed published March 7th, writes “it was a very different time” back then. It was never my intent for DOMA to “provide an excuse for discrimination.” But now, Clinton vacuously argues, “the law is itself discriminatory.” And “it should be overturned” because “it is contrary” to “the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice.”
Clinton’s politically calculated decision comes on the heels of a well-crafted public relations campaign designed to put pressure on the Supreme Court as it prepares to hear two cases on gay rights later this year: one on the constitutionality of DOMA and one on whether or not California’s Proposition 8 – a measure that banned gay marriage and was supported by 7 out of 10 African Americans – is legal.
That public relations campaign included some not so unimportant Republicans. In a video recently released by the Respect for Marriage Coalition, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Laura Bush (who complained she never consented to being included in the video) were shown expressing their support for gay marriage.
Additionally, more than 100 Republicans have signed their names to an amicus curiae brief expressing their desire for the Court to rule in favor of same sex marriage.
The decision by many Republicans to flip fop on a societal building block such as marriage has caused much consternation within the party. Indeed, some are beginning to question whether gay marriage is in reality a conservative position. I disagree with that, and I’ll explain why in a moment, but the politics of gay marriage for the Republican Party is fascinating.
As a party desperately seeking to appeal to voters who are not middle-age white men, some in the GOP are, as Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post points out, seeing the shifting statistics on gay marriage and throwing their support behind an issue they think will win them votes.
This attitude reflects what one-time presidential hopeful Mitch Daniels said more than two years ago: We “have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.”
At the same time, gay marriage is not something minority communities, especially African Americans and Hispanics, are especially fond of. And many grassroots conservatives oppose it as well.
CPAC, also known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, put itself at the center of this debate by refusing to invite members of GOProud, a well heeled organization of gay and straight Americans who advocate on behalf of conservative principles, to its upcoming 2013 meeting. Oddly enough, CPAC also refused to extend an invitation to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a man who vetoed legislation that would have made gay marriage legal in his state.
In the meantime, advocates of ultra minimal government who nonetheless support the Republican Party have come out in support of gay marriage as well. Clint Eastwood, who spoke at the GOP convention last year, summed up the always insightful perspective of the libertarian worldview by saying we should just “leave everybody alone” when it comes to marriage.
It has also been reported that the Republican Party of Illinois is debating whether or not they should remove its party chairman Pat Brady for expressing his desire to end that state’s ban on gay marriage.
The internal squabbling over gay marriage within the Republican Party is shaping up to be a moderate/establishment versus conservative/grassroots issue. And it is one that may cause major issues in the future. But it shouldn’t. Being conservative, neigh, being Republican, is, at its core, being pro-family. And being pro-family means supporting traditional marriage.
Ryan T. Anderson, co-author of What is Marriage?, reminds us of this in a post over at the Heritage Foundation blog:
Support for marriage as the union of a man and a woman is essential to American—and conservative—principles. Indeed, nothing could be less conservative than urging an activist court to redefine an essential institution of civil society.
Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces. It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are different and complementary, on the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and on the social reality that children need a mother and a father.
Marriage predates government. It is the fundamental building block of all human civilization.
Anderson goes on to add that
Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children. It would deny as a matter of policy the ideal that a child needs a mom and a dad.
Redefining marriage to abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity would also make other essential characteristics—such as monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency—optional.
Redefining marriage is a direct and demonstrated threat to religious freedom that marginalizes those who affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Anderson’s argument should resonate with those not only on the political right but with moderates on the fence about gay marriage, as it is the most common sense, clear-thinking approach one can have to such a critical issue.