CLIFF DUNN, EDITOR
After the dust settled from last weekend’s Stonewall Summer Pride, I had a few minutes to think about what the next three months is likely to hold for the LGBT rights movement. My publisher—and my boyfriend, too—would probably disagree, but I prefer to err on the side of caution, at least insofar as making broad political or policy predictions.
But several factors—much like the systems that come together to form a tropical cyclone, or what we here down south call a hurricane—have begun to form around one another, in a way that has the potential to change the political calculus, relevant to the future of LGBT rights, that will be pleasing to progressives (although Democrats may find themselves sucking on the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it’s all over).
The first factor—much like the low-pressure system in the center of a tropical storm—was President Obama’s announcement last month, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” For pessimistic liberals and cranky conservatives who think that Obama’s words were simply political hot air—red meat thrown to a highdollar- donating constituency, which has been pretty vocal thus far in their disappointment with what they see as the chief executive lip service—this sort of endorsement from a sitting POTUS during a general election year all but guarantees that a plank supporting marriage equality for LGBT Americans will be added to the party platform at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
At the end of summer, by the way. Unlike, say, Bill Clinton’s 1996 State of the Union address, in which he had Limbaugh and Hannity pleasuring themselves after he announced that “the era of big government is over,” this is more than a nod to the gay rights lobby.
Long-term, this will likely have the same paradigm-shifting impact of President Truman’s 1948 signing of Executive Order 9981, which abolished racial segregation in the armed forces. For most of the last six weeks, the news cycle has been dominated by same sex marriage: the chattering class has a way of sensing a coming storm.
Incidentally, I don’t want to give short shrift to the importance of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think it is a sign of the times—and another weather front moving into our political perfect storm system—that the vast majority of Americans (bigots included) think that an over-deployed military only stands to gain from an influx of fresh recruits, no matter whom they love, by chance or choice.
I am not naïve enough to believe that the mighty ship of service that is our armed armed forces can be turned around 180 degrees in either culture or mindset, but the journey of a thousand miles, and all that, requires a starting point, and Obama defined that. In less than a decade, this will be a yawner. (And John McCain should hang his head: His legitimate record of military and public service will be remembered only second to his loutish complaining about the president’s repeal of the loathsome DADT policy—a move he actually supported when Obama was still just a community organizer. Shame on you, Senator.)
The third “storm front” is Marco Rubio’s recent political legerdemain, in which he proudly flouted his traditionalist credentials while giving a tender wink to the LGBT voters who occassionally break Republican. Speaking to Christianity Today, the potential running mate to Mitt Romney disavowed both the notion that he— and by extension, Romney and the rest of the GOP—want to discriminate against anybody, or that “his way” was the only way.
Sounding more like Clarence Darrow than Clarence Thomas, Florida’s junior U.S. Senator used the same sentence to provide comfort to both the left and right (“I believe marriage is a unique and specific institution that is the result of thousands of years of wisdom, which concluded that the ideal—not the only way but certainly the ideal—situation to raise children to become productive and healthy humans is in a home with a father and mother married to each other.”), before he once again let gays— particularly those in close-race states like North Carolina, Ohio, and his own Florida—know that he wants to be “America’s first gay vice president.”
(“Does that mean people who are not in that circumstance cannot be successful? Of course not. It’s not a discriminatory thing.”) Rubio knows, as well as Obama does, that demographics are destiny, and the young generally could care less who you marry. By 2032 (by which time Rubio will have likely made his own run for the White House), marriage equality will be a fait accompli. I realize that 20 years is a long time, and there are Supreme Court decisions still to come.
But the final factor—the one that forms all these elements into the perfect political storm—is the will of the American people, who are jumping on the “gay rights is civil rights” bandwagon in droves, which means that in spite of the ill will of Mitt Romney and the conservative base whose anger he is attempting to harness, this promises to be a most interesting political season for all the Boys of Summer.