It Ain’t Necessarily So…
It’s official. Same sex marriage (a/k/a marriage equality) is surefire winner. Rush says so. No, really, that Rush. El Limbo. Inevitable, he says. Gonna happen. Doesn’t matter what the Supremes do. A done deal. He gives up.
All us soft hearted (soft headed?) elitist, condescending liberals are, of course, smugly, “feeling on the right side of history” dee-lighted. Now that our cause is nearly won and our foes at the edge of defeat we may turn to the really fun part: playing a gotcha game of Who were the Good guys & the Bad guys. On our side! Oh, all those hideous right-wingers, Baptists, Republican politicians, and assorted hangers-on were vile, venomous villains. That goes without saying (alhough I just said it). But there were quislings on our team as well; some of those who have alleged allegiance to to all things blue were, in truth, too purple in the past.
Andrew Sullivan, who for a time was an heroic voice in the wilderness, recently excoriated Bill and Hillary Clinton for their abandonment of gay issues and embrace of DOMA during his term as President. I understand his reasoning. I think his attack largely unfair. He wrote:
I find the opportunism of the Clintons – who did more substantive harm to gay people in eight years than any other administration – more disgusting than the fundamentalist hostility. At least the Christianists were sincere. The Clintons have always been phonies and opportunists and for Bill Clinton to proclaim the sanctity of marriage and sign DOMA while cigar-fucking his intern tells you a lot about him. On no issue were they as shameless as on this one – portraying themselves as civil rights advocates while kicking those of us fighting for equality squarely in the groin.
This is clearly over the top. Were the Clintons heroes, standing against the then wave of homophobia? No. But it does not seem to count for Sullivan that Bill tried to end the ban on gays in the military. He botched it badly and ran into a hail of right wing fire that resulted in the infamous DADT policy reversed just last year by the Obama administration. Clinton’s appointment of gays likewise doesn’t seem to count.
Worse than the Christianists? Those who would gladly have put gays back in the closet, criminalized gay sex, banned gay teachers, etc. were better than the Clintons because they were sincere? Really??
Bill Clinton was a politician. Politics is the art of the possible. The early nineties were a much darker time for gay rights than the bright sunshine existing now – twenty years later. What Sullivan was advocating then was simply not possible any more than abolition was possible in the 1840’s (remember, even Lincoln did not advocate abolition until well into the Civil War).
Was Clinton “insincere”. Of course. Good politicians frequently are. Was Obama sincere when he fully “evolved” to his embrace of same sex marriage last year? I haven’t a clue. It doesn’t matter to me. Sincerity doesn’t count. Results count. No amount of sincere support for gay marriage rights by any president was going to change results in 1993.
Does any one honestly think Obama would have endorsed marriage equality five years ago? I supported Barrack in both 2008 and last years. There are lots of things I’d like him to do (prosecute those approving torture in the Bush years), Some of what I want simply isn’t possible right now. I’d love to see significant gun control. It won’t happen. There is nothing Obama can do to change that. Five or ten years from now things might be different.
The art of the possible… Of course reasonable minds may differ on whether the possibilityo f whatever exists in the present. I was aghast when the prop 8 and DOMA opponents sought Supreme Court rulings. My fear was what was essentially a political move would backfire and set gay rights back a decade or more. After oral argument I’m not quite so fearful (particularly on DOMA).
Same sex marriage is clearly possible today. A la Senator Portman’s endorsement of equality, those politicians jumping on the big pink bus risk little to belatedly join the rainbow parade. But we need to remember the future course of history was darkly unsure twenty plus years ago. The homophobic winds behind opponents of gay rights backs was nearly gale force. I wouldn’t have believed in 1993 that a mere twenty years later marriage would be within spitting distance of the finish line.
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