by David Lampo, Author, ‘A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights.’
This election was a watershed day for gay rights with the successful passage of three state initiatives in Maryland, Washington, and Maine to legalize same-sex marriage. We also saw the defeat of a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would have inserted a prohibition on same-sex marriage into its constitution, a measure long sought by Rep. Michele Bachmann, making its defeat all the sweeter. The eight-year-long string of defeats in statewide votes on gay marriage is finally over.
But even though gay rights issues rarely came up during the general election campaign, the country remains deeply divided on gay rights and same-sex marriage. President Obama won only narrowly after a bitter and divisive campaign. Although Democrats retain a majority in the Senate, Republicans remain fully in control of the House and actually picked up a governorship, giving them a total of 30. Since the states will be the primary battleground for same-sex marriage and other gay rights measures, these governors will play a very important role in those fights.
Consequently, one fact about the future of gay rights and marriage equality remains crystal clear: full equality for gay and lesbian Americans will not come without the support of more elected Republicans, at every level of government. The widely held premise that only the support of Democrats is needed to bring us full legal equality is ludicrous, and any movement built on such a premise is destined to fail.
The challenges ahead are huge: Even after the Democratic sweep in 2008 of both houses of Congress and the presidency, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act failed to pass the Senate. The Defense of Marriage Act is still the law of the land. Only nine states and D.C. have marriage equality, and 30 states have constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage that will be difficult to undo. Most states don’t have even civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and two-parent adoption by gay couples is prohibited in most states.
The only real bright spot during the past four years was the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), made possible only with the votes of eight Republican senators, but with the House still firmly under Republican control, any further legislative progress on gay rights at the federal level will require a new strategy.
That strategy must begin with the acknowledgement that support for gay rights within the Republican Party rank and file is far greater than what conventional wisdom tells us. The fact that even most Republicans are not aware of this support is understandable given the very visible role that the Religious Right has played in the Republican Party, but there is in fact a huge disconnect between rank and file Republicans and elected Republicans on gay issues.
Recent polls show that
- 66 percent of Republicans support employment nondiscrimination legislation (Greenberg Quinlan poll).
- A majority of Republicans are satisfied with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (National Journal poll).
- 57 percent of Republicans support either same sex marriage or civil unions (Fox News poll).
- Only 37 percent of Republicans support a federal marriage amendment (National Journal poll).
- 49 percent of young Republicans (18-29) support marriage equality (Public Religion Research Institute poll).
If gay rights supporters are interested in building a lasting and effective coalition to build on this year’s victories, it is time for them, especially their allies in the Democratic Party, to stop demonizing Republicans and start crafting a strategy and message that can help increase the support for gay rights among both rank and file Republicans and their leaders in Congress and the state legislatures.
Read the full article from The Huffington Post.