Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I don't want to say...

...I told you so (because I don't think I actually told you so), but I've been thinking -- honestly! -- for a while now that everyone has been too quick to take gay marriage as an issue in the Republican primaries off the table -- especially the GOP establishment.

That's Rick Santorum on the left and Mike Huckabee on the right in the picture above, or the winners of the last two Iowa caucuses in 2012 and 2008, respectively. Or, two of the biggest -- for lack of a better word -- homophobes in the party. And they're both probably running again in 2016, in a crowded field. So, how do they expect to distinguish themselves from the rest of their GOP rivals? Well, you can be sure that one or the other (probably both) or Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or somebody will be talking about gay marriage. A lot. And getting traction with the Iowa faithful. It's just a big issue with many people on the right.

Now, the Republican Party establishment has been hoping that the Supreme Court would rule on gay marriage this year and take the whole issue off the table. "See? It's been decided; now let's talk about something else." Not so fast, I say. Remember how the Supremes ruled on abortion back in 1973? And remember how everyone in the Republican Party just let the whole thing go? Exactly. Even if the Supremes rule in favor of gay marriage -- especially if they rule in favor of gay marriage -- it will only gin up the GOP base. Expect to hear a lot of talk about an amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage.

Into all this steps Mike Pence and the state of Indiana (and now Arkansas!) with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (Who's next, Georgia? North Carolina?) And, suddenly, the Republican Party establishment's choice for president, Jeb Bush, feels pressure to support the law even while the rest of the country -- and the business community! -- calls for its repeal.

(A short digression. From the fall of 2006 to the spring of 2008, I worked for a very large Fortune 500 company. One day, a woman in the office made a disparaging remark about my immediate boss, who happened to be a lesbian. To make a long story short, the company came down on the woman making the remark in such a powerful way it would take your breath away. While they didn't fire her, they brought this woman to tears -- and she wasn't the type to cry easily -- and made her apologize to the other woman in front of a number of her colleagues in a very humiliating way. And the moral of the story for me was: Sheesh! These large companies don't take any criticism of gays lightly! I don't know if they were afraid of a lawsuit or what, but the bottom line clearly was: they don't want to be seen for a second as offending gays or lesbians in any way. Okay, I thought, I got the message. And this was in 2007 -- almost eight years ago!)

So, what every Republican bigwig -- I'm looking at you, Reince Priebus -- thought would be a distant memory -- gay marriage -- may turn out to be front-and-center as an issue in the Iowa caucuses. And maybe even a litmus test. And maybe a millstone around Jeb's neck -- or whomever the party ends up nominating -- in the same way that immigration reform was for Mitt Romney last time around. Only this time it could be worse. Instead of just offending Hispanics, this could offend the vast majority of Americans (and -- gasp!-- the business community).

No comments: