As you might remember, a few weeks ago some of the contributors to bilerico.com were invited to take part in a blogger lunch with Senator Evan Bayh. Linda Perdue asked a question about the Federal Marriage Amendment and I followed up with a question about SJR-7, the state constitutional amendment to outlaw civil marriage for gays and lesbians. While Senator Bayh told Linda he would not be voting in favor of the FMA, he hedged on my question. He told me that he'd "get back to me."
And then never did. In fact, I get the distinct impression that the good Senator's office has avoided answering my question.
The Bayh camp has had no problem whatsoever though in communicating with news outlets and even constituents about his position on the FMA. And while in the statements, he makes clear that he does not support the FMA, the rest of his statements tell the story that he didn't give when faced with a room that held five bloggers for LGBT focused websites...
First came a statement made to the Howey Political Report. To quote from the story:
It's difficult to reduce the senator's position to a headline or a simple sound bite. In response to an HPR query, the senator's office emailed the following statement:
"Senator Bayh does not support same-sex marriage. He thinks marriage should be between one man and one woman. That is currently the law in Indiana and the law nationally. He also believes that the Constitution should only be amended when absolutely necessary, not because of hypothetical situations that may or may not come to pass. If the Supreme Court ever strikes down the state or national laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, then he believes that a Constitutional amendment should be considered."
The answer Bayh gave to Linda Perdue was that he thought it was a "state's rights" issue. At no time during the meeting did I ever hear him state his belief that "Senator Bayh does not support same-sex marriage. He thinks marriage should be between one man and one woman." Makes you wonder if he thought maybe that "one man-one woman" answer wouldn't have flown over so well, eh?
Makes you wonder what part of "Senator Bayh does not support same-sex marriage." he was going to have to get back to me on... Was it the "marriage" part? The "same-sex" part? Or the "support?" Or maybe it was just having to take a position and stick to it.
After the Howey Report came out with the quote from Bayh's office, I emailed his press secretary and inquired into my question that the Senator was going to "get back" to me on. After all, with this quote coming out to Howey, could my answer be much different? In the email I wrote:
I still haven't received a response to my question of Senator Bayh from the blogger meeting.
I did see in the Howey Political Report however:
(insert Howey quote - removed for space)
Is this the answer I should go with for bilerico? Is this how Senator Bayh feels about the Indiana constitutional amendment? He opposes the FMA because of state's rights - and as for the amendment at home, he'd vote for it since marriage is made for one man and one woman? And that if the Supreme Court says laws against gay marriage are discriminatory then we SHOULD have an amendment?
Can you provide a more clear answer? I'd like to have an answer to the blog sometime soon. Before I posted anything about Bayh's quote in HPR, I thought I'd give your camp another chance to respond and answer the question from almost two weeks ago.
Within a couple of hours, I got a reply back from Bayh's press secretary. It read:
Bil - Thank you for your email. I have not forgotten your original question, but we have been stretched pretty thin in the press office for the past two weeks with back-to-back trips and one person out sick, and have several outstanding media requests to catch up on as a result. I will be in touch with you when I return to the office next week - Meghan
So I waited. And then other constituents started getting replies to emails and letters about the FMA. (See Annette's post from yesterday to read the entire statement.) So more statements are being given out - but there's still no answer to my question (now three weeks old). So I wrote again - forwarding a copy of the Bayh email/letter to constituents.
It has now been three weeks since I asked Senator Bayh my question at his blogger luncheon held here in Indianapolis. To date, I have received no answer to my question.
After the Howey Political Report reported: (insert Howey quote again) I wrote to you and asked if this was the answer I should go with for bilerico.com You said that you would get back to me ASAP with an actual answer. That was over a week ago.
Today, a friend of mine received this official correspondence from your office regarding the FMA and same-sex marriage. Since this pretty much echos what the Howey Political Report said, I will ask again if this is the answer that I should go with for bilerico.com It seems to be the answer to everyone else, so I can't imagine the answer I will get will be any different. I would have liked to have written a story about Senator Bayh and the FMA last week during the actual vote on the amendment, but did not due so out of respect for your wishes that I wait on an official answer. As the vote is now a week old, I have to assume I'm simply not going to get an answer.
Can you advise? If I haven't heard back from you by Wednesday, I will run my story based on these two statements.
The next day I had a short answer from the Bayh camp.
Bil - I'm sorry if there's been any confusion, but if you are writing your story on the federal marriage amendment, you should use the statement included in the HPR. Thanks - Meghan
I wrote back:
My story will be about the FMA and SJR-7, the state constitutional amendment. My question was specifically about SJR-7 at the blogger meeting and Senator Bayh seems to have answered that question as well in his response - he does not support same-sex marriage and would vote for a constitutional amendment if the law was overturned by a court. Unless the Senator would wish to clarify his response to directly mention SJR-7, this would seem to cover both issues. Would it not?
And Ms. Keck responded:
That goes farther than what Bayh has said. Bayh believes that the Constitution should only be amended when necessary and not for hypothetical situations that may or may not come to pass. If courts overturned a federal or state law, he believes an amendment should be considered at that time to determine whether or not one is necessary at that point.
So where does that leave the issue of SJR-7? While I've never gotten a straight (pardon the pun) answer from Senator Bayh, we can extrapolate a few basic premises...
1. Despite Bayh's assurances that he felt discrimination was wrong he feels it is okay to discriminate against gays and lesbian couples in regards to the rights that come with marriage - hospital visitation, inheritance rights, domestic violence protections, insurance benefits and child care responsibilities.
2. Senator Bayh feels that we should have laws at both the state and federal level to exclude gays and lesbians from some government institutions and benefits.
3. If those laws were ever overturned (as laws against inter-racial marriage were) the Senator would favor enshrining discrimination into our Constitution (and one can assume the state Constitution as well).
4. Senator Bayh voted against the FMA - not because it was the right and moral thing to do, but because it was over-kill. It's not that he supports our relationships, but instead didn't feel the need to get extra credit on his discrimination test.
5. As far as presidential contenders, Bayh is no Dennis Kucinich or Russ Feingold. Although with a recent Iowa poll showing Bayh running behind "None of These," do we really have to worry about a Bayh presidential bid much longer?
So these are my thoughts on reading the responses from the Senator's press secretary and the Senator's own statements. What do you think? Is Bayh just being cautious a la Hillary Clinton? Can a presidential candidate who supports gay marriage be elected in the current political climate? Is his response (or non-response, however you see it) a cop-out? A careful navigation? A justification?
What's your opinion?