Marla R. Stevens

Civil Marriage & Political Giving: Tough Love

Filed By Marla R. Stevens | August 21, 2007 7:12 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, campaign finance law, civil marriage equality, gay marriage, Hillary Rodham Clinton, HRC/Logo debate, John Edwards, Kucinich, marriage equality, New Jersey, political campaigns

"Gay Americans are using the ballot box as a tool in their campaign to make America more tolerant and equal.* They seem to be capturing the attention of political candidates, but it seems it will take more than voting power to sway a majority of the rest of the American people." -- Tova Andrea Wang, Democracy Fellow, The Century Foundation.

It will take more -- it will take withholding that power to get them to stand up and take notice. Note the power of the withhold in the recent poll regarding Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania voters unwilling to support candidates who support a gay rights group, even though there was no attempt in it to correlate respondents to how they would vote even before the gay issue was in play.

I'm not swayed by the Barack/HRC/Edwards/HRC 'we'll make civil unions cover everything [civil] marriage does' pie in the sky. It's an impossibility, given the basic principle of non-redundancy in law that requires courts in many states, including Indiana, to interpret otherwise duplicative laws as different. (Nonredundancy is also technically a federal requirement although the federal courts' history of fealty to it is a bit more checkered.) It isn't the same and it cannot be legally interpreted to be the same.

In addition, there's that pesky little issue of portability that isn't as nicely xenophobic as they seem to wish it is. ...

Civil marriage is internationally portable across the globe. Civil unions, while the number of countries recognizing them is growing, are neither as internationally portable as civil marriage nor is the meaning of them and what they encompass anywhere close to consistent -- even in those places that do recognize them. Again, it isn't the same and it cannot be made the same by U.S. unilateral action -- and I have yet to hear any of these civil unions apologists include a pledge to either bring the rest of the world on board with their separate but equal nonsense before saddling us with it, either! Certainly the countries with equal access to civil marriage would not want to go backwards nor, from the opposite end of the scale, would countries with a fundamentalist bent enough that they're still imprisoning and even executing us essentially for status be likely to go along with it.

Besides, if these candidates truly want to afford us the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities as civil marriage, then what is stopping them from simply giving us equal access to civil marriage -- other than an a desire to accommodate rank bigotry in a manner unbecoming a fit leader?

It is appalling that the Human Rights Campaign had as questioners at its recent 'debate' people who were too obviously ignorant of the law to expose the depth of candidates' [Kucinich excepted] various incourageous pandering slime, personal ignorance, and personal bigotry where we're concerned. [And don't even get me started on the pundits' (gay ones notable, to my undying disgust) morass of factual errors on which they based commentary on the 'debate' debacle in the days following it, not the least of which was the twit on Olbermann.]

Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, in particular, as lawyers, either do know better or damned well ought to. Where was the follow-up asking if their position against civil marriage equality meant they also supported the recent Supremes' decision decimating Brown v Board of Education -- support of which would paint them equal foes of racial equality?

No, neither my dollars nor my votes will go to those who do not think me human (equal access to civil marriage in this country being a fundamental right accorded on the basis of being human and denial thereof therefore being correctly interpretable as evidence that one is considered somehow less than fully human).

I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King's final days -- in Memphis in support of striking garbage collectors after the deaths of fellow workers caused by the city's lack of consideration of them equally human enough to warrant expenditures enough to ensure minimally safe working conditions. They carried signs that read, "I AM a man". Must we all bird-dog these candidates with signs hung around our necks reading, "I AM human"?!?

My money will go instead to funding Congressional and Statehouse candidates who already embrace me and my marriage as equal to them and theirs and who will not mince words about it -- much less hesitate to say so on the record -- and not just in gay arenas. I prefer that they're viable but will also fund those who don't have sure-win potential but are willing to use their races as bully pulpits to advance the cause. I am intent on growing our future, jointly impatient for it while patient enough about the process to build a solid foundation for that future.

I hope you are standing with me on this one. Frankly, simply being acknowledged as human should not be too much to demand and less than that should be too much to reward.

* From Ms. Wang's oeuvre, "Gay Voters Poised for Greater Influence in Elections":
"It is well-known that voter turnout in the United States is abysmal, especially when compared with the rest of the industrialized world. But there is one group of Americans that meets and even exceeds the extraordinary level of participation experienced in other western industrialized countries: gay voters."

A recently released study found that a phenomenal 92.5 percent of gay men and 91 percent of lesbians voted in the 2004 presidential election, and 82.4 percent of gay men and 78 percent of lesbians voted in the 2006 midterm elections. As the Los Angeles Times noted, that compares with an overall turnout of about 61 percent in 2004 and a 40 percent turnout in 2006. The financial participation of gay Americans in politics is also remarkable. This same study found that 40 percent of gay men and 31 percent of lesbians gave money to a political party within the year--compared with 7 percent of Americans overall. (In the run up to the 2008 election, the lion's share of donations to candidates is going to Senators Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.)

One possible explanation for this disparity is that gay Americans have learned the hard way the direct impact that government and politics can have on one's life. There is less of a disconnect between the act of voting and the repercussions of the outcome, because the impacts of public policies on family and livelihood are so evident.

Since it is reasonable to assume that gay turnout is just as disproportionate in primary elections, and that a substantial majority of the gay population votes Democratic, this new data means that the gay vote could play a significant role in the Democratic primaries next year. As I have noted, as bad as turnout levels are in general elections, they are much worse in primaries, and still worse in caucuses. Any group that is going to vote in numbers exceeding its proportion of the general population may prove to be the margin of difference.

Caveat: I cannot attest to the methodology of the study and caution taking its rather extreme results at face value without knowing more about how they were obtained, including sample size and source, if it encompasses all gay people or just certain self-identified ones, if matched pairs were used or not, and if the sample is truly representative of gay people and gay voters as a whole nationwide. That said, however, that it has attracted significant notice in the political world is indisputable and ensures that it will have a certain effect in electoral political organizing no matter its quality otherwise. -- Marla


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Welcome back to blogging Marla! Are you feeling better? We've missed you on the site! And again you come right in and hit one out of the park.

In regards to the study you mention in your caveat, is this the same study that Alex blogged about earlier this month? How reputable is this firm? Tom Roth, the president of Community Marketing recently guest posted on the Bilerico Project, but several folks had questions about methodology and other issues. I thought you'd blogged about a previous survey of theirs, but I can't find it on the site anywhere right now...