Gay Marriage Definitely A Wedge Issue Among Democrats

by on February 26th, 2004

Karl Rove has to be drinking a little champagne tonight. The gay marriage issue has shown just how tenuous the unified Democratic Party theory really is, but whether or not gay marriage becomes the wedge issue Republicans hope it’ll be depends on how clearly Democrats can see the forest from the trees.

Elaborated on by DailyKos and Eschaton today, the two biggest factors for the demoralization: Kerry’s endorsement for a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts banning gay marriage, and Democratic U.S. Representative hopeful of South Dakota and blogger favorite Stephanie Herseth saying she agreed with Bush’s position favoring a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as a contract “between a man and a woman.”

Both Kos and Atrios have said they needed to reconsider their support for Democratic politicians favoring Constitutional amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman (Kos even going so far as to call Kerry “a spineless ass”), but this is definitely a wedge issue, and has been for some time. Some (mostly younger) Democrats go all out in their endorsement for gay marriage; probably most traditional Democrats do not, although even most older Democrats have concerns with altering the U.S. Constitution over it.

Stephanie Herseth’s position, while apparently agreeing whole-heartedly with Bush’s proposed amendment to the Constitution, is all well and good, at least for consistency. She has been dependent on fundraising from liberal blogs, though, and her campaign’s half-hearted explanation to DailyKos only mucks up the waters:

Stephanie and her campaign team understand the reaction to yesterday’s news. Stephanie’s position on the amendment is consistent with her position of the Defense of Marriage Act — she believes the issue ultimately should be left to the states, whether they decide it individually under federal legislation or collectively within the ratification process. In this election year, we truly hope this issue doesn’t distract from important discussions on issues like lowering the cost of health care, creating jobs, and getting our economy moving in the right direction.

Fair enough, I don’t get why someone who appreciates the States rights DOMA approach would nonetheless support a U.S. Constitutional Amendment nullifying DOMA once and for all, but no matter. At least we know where Herseth stands on the issue. But as a man who loves and appreciates all sorts of political nuances, I still find Kerry’s position so unbelievably nuanced in scope and vision that I’ll call shenanigans on him and admit to the fact that I can’t even come close to comprehending Kerry’s real position on this issue.

But I will try. His stated position, for those still confused: I’m opposed to gay marriage, but I believe in states rights to decide for themselves, so I’m opposed to a US Constitutional amendment. That being said, if I were a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, I’d still vote and uphold a Constitutional Amendment banning Gay Marriage (but not civil unions) because I’m opposed to gay marriage.

Now, I guess I’ll claim I understand the “trees” of his argument here, but for the life of me I cannot understand the logical reasoning behind it. He says he approves of state’s rights to determine for themselves how to handle gay marriage, but at the same time wants an Amendment banning the possibility of gay marriage in his own home state. It’s kind of like saying -you guys can do whatever you want in any other state, as long as my state stays gay marriage-free. Even if I’m not a member of the legislature nor the Governor of said state…

Or just possibly it’s a matter of political power-broking. Truth be told, as a young man under thirty, it’s obvious to me that gay marriage will be legalized and at least partially respected in my own lifetime. It’s more of a generational wedge issue than a party-political one. One of my friends, an enthusiastic Republican about my age, was so upset over Bush’s proposed Amendment that she even considered voting against him because of it. But then again, liberal Democrats twice my age don’t worry too much about a new amendment from Bush, or Kerry’s ambiguity to it, either because they don’t think the issue is all that important, or because they secretly harbor the belief that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

While being something of a generalization, it’s obvious to me that marriage generally means different things to older and younger people in this country. You could either attribute it to a decline in the sanctity of marriage, with divorce rates skyrocketing over the past 30 years, or you could attribute it to kids just being a tad more open minded than their parents are. Whatever the case, Gen Xers, and kids in general, should realize that the Boomers and the Greatest, that their parents and grandparents, while they might not be the most open-minded fans of gay marriage out there, they at least believe in a Democratic Presidential candidate that won’t go out of his way to endorse a discriminatory Constitutional mandate for the entire country to obey. Even if the reasoning he espouses leaves one at best befuddled and confused.

I’ll give this round to Rove, and give him a wedge (for Trivial Pursuit lovers), but at this point I’m going to have to hedge on conceding this war.

Edward E.J. Davis