I’ve written before about the dilemma faced by gay Republicans, embracing a party that doesn’t exactly embrace them. But recently it’s occurred to me that gay Democrats or left-leaning gays aren’t faring much better on the other side of the political spectrum, when some candidates run to the right on some issues, in hopes of winning a few more votes.
Case in point, a few weeks ago I got an email from a blogging list-serve I’m on, asking me to post some code to put a button on my site for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine. At the time I didn’t think much about it before putting the button on my blog. I figured if Kaine was the Democratic candidate, He had to be better than whoever the Republicans were running. So, I didn’t check into his record or his positions before posting the button. That was my mistake.
Some time after I posted the button I got an email from Chance saying that Kaine had taken some anti-gay positions around same sex marriage and adoptions by gays. I made a mental note to check it out, but didn’t until today, Chance made a comment saying basically the same thing. So I checked it out.
If put in the best light, Kaine makes it appear that he’d really rather not deal with gay issues.
Here are some of the common-sense attitudes that the poll detected:
Voters are less interested in hot-button topics such as the death penalty, gun laws and gay adoption than in more fundamental matters: education, state spending, transportation and jobs, in that order. The candidates should tailor their advertising and their themes accordingly.
But when pressed on same-sex marriage and gay adoptions, both illegal in Virignia, he clearly doesn’t want to alienate those voters for whom those are “hot-button” issues. So he positions himself accordingly.
Kilgore and Kaine said they support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. Both said they disapprove of adoptions by gay couples.
In case there was any doubt, Kaine clarifies his position.
Democrat Tim Kaine opposes adoption by gay couples, citing present Virginia law that couples can’t adopt unless they’re married. Virginia law forbids same-sex marriage.
“I very much believe that the law in Virginia right now is the right law,” Kaine said. “An unmarried straight couple can’t adopt, a gay couple can’t adopt, two sisters can’t adopt, a mother and a daughter can’t adopt a younger child. The only couple that can adopt is a married couple.”
But leaves himself some wiggle room.
Singles can adopt in Virginia if they can demonstrate to a court that they would be fit parents and if the adoption is in the child’s best interest. Kaine criticized as “mean-spirited” legislation this year that would have disqualified gays who live alone from adopting even if they can show parental fitness and that the adoption would serve the child’s best interest.
Based on the comments on Kaine’s own blog, it doesn’t appear to be going over to well with his constituents. And it isn’t going over too well with me either.
So, the Tim Kaine button came down, and it won’t be going back up. I regret having put it up in the first place. I’m not a Virginian, mind you, precisely because the state is so conservative, and we plan on adopting a second child. But even though Kaine’s policies wouldn’t directly affect my family if he won, I can’t see giving him the support of having a button on my blog.
It’s a cliche that politics makes strange bedfellows. It also makes strained marriages between political parties and long-time constituents when candidates make the decision that they have to move somewhat in the opposite direction of their values, and some of their constituents’ values, in order to win. Clearly that’s what’s happening in Kaine’s situation.
In a state as conservative as Virginia, a Democrat is going to have to successfully court some conservative voters in order to win, and they’re more essential to his victory than gay voters. So, gay voters and their families basically get thrown under the bus, for the sake of victory and supposedly for the good of the state and the party. After all, isn’t it better to have a Democrat in the governors’ mansion in the end? Well, maybe. But if you’re a gay couple wanting to adopt, not so much.
Across the progressive blogosphere, you’ll hear calls to place party unity above particular issues, like gay and lesbian equality or abortion rights, and you’ll usually hear those calls from people who aren’t all that directly affected by those particular issues.
Another example of a core Democratic principle — equality under the law. And from that principle stem civil rights, gender equity, and gay rights. It’s not that those individual issues aren’t important, of course they are. It’s just that they are just that — individual issues. A party has to stand for something bigger than the sum of its parts.
We have confused groups that are natural allies of the Democratic Party for the party itself. And the party has ceded way too much power, way too much control, to those single issue groups.
Yeah, the “important shit.” Maybe. Whatever. The thing is, the party’s stand may be “bigger than the sum of its parts” but if my issues are the one’s going overboard, I’m not sure I’m a part of that party, really. And how much is the party standing up for the principle of equality under the law if it’s tossing overboard issues that are all about equality under the law? Promises to return to those issues don’t carry much weight when I’m wondering how far to the right they’ll have to run to get back into power, how far right they’ll have to stay to keep that power, and whether they’ll be able to make it all the way back to a point at which they can address the issues that are important to me, even if they don’t fall into the category of “important shit.”
But then I happen to think my shit is important shit, at least to me and my family. And I can’t lend my support to a candidate who takes a position against my family. I don’t care what part they’re in. Not a vote, not a contribution, not so much as a button on my blog.
So, when it comes to Kaine — and other candidates like him — I just can’t. I’ve learned a lesson here. When a candidate — or a party, for that matter — comes knocking and looking for support, ask the hard questions. And if I don’t get the right answers, then I have to tell them I just can’t.