In just over twenty-four hours, shortly after President Bush delivers the State of the Union address, Timothy M. Kaine, the new Democratic Governor of Virginia will delivered “his party’s response.” Although this Democrat signed a bill calling for a referendum on a constitutional amendment to ban state recognition of gay marriage in the Old Dominion, gay leaders have largely been silent about the Democrats’ choice of Kaine. They have not faulted Democrats for tapping such a man nor have they even faulted him for supporting this measure.
And unlike Connecticut’s Republican Governor Jodi Rell, who signed a bill into law recognizing same-sex civil unions in the Nutmeg State, the Virginia Democrat opposes civil unions. Indeed, while the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) faulted California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenengger in multiple press releases for his veto of a bill which would have recognized same-sex marriage in the Golden State, the only reference on HRC’s web-site to Kaine’s support of his state’s amendment resolution was a Washington Post article on the Virginia referendum that they posted here.
HRC accused California’s Republican Governor, more open to state recognition of same-sex unions than his Virginia Democratic counterpart, of putting “politics over people.” (Schwarzenegger has publicly endorsed the state’s domestic partnership program. Not only that, last year, he signed five gay-friendly bills.) Yet, their silence on Kaine suggests that they believe Democrats never put politics over people. No wonder HRC removed the word bipartisan from its Mission Statement.
Indeed, it is a sign of HRC’s increasing partisanship that it refuses to fault a Democratic Governor for having a more narrow view of state recognition of same-sex unions than a Republican they criticize on multiple occasions. And this group, like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has issued no statement taking issue with Democrats for picking a man who just days before he was tapped to be the face of their party (after the President delivers the State of the Union address) pledged to put the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to a referendum, almost certain to pass.
(While NGLTF has also been silent on Kaine’s opposition to gay marriage and they Democrats’ choice of Kaine, that group at least issued no release criticizing Governor Schwarzenengger for his veto.)
Some Democratic activists are upset with this choice. Writing on the Democratic National Committee’s official web-site, Nemo3 faults the Virginia Governor for “gearing up to pass the most heinous, discriminatory piece of anti-gay American legislation the country has ever seen!” At least this guy’s willing to take on his party.
In dealing with Democrats, national gay leaders, however, seem to lack a spine. They have remained silent when Democrats take positions on gay issues similar to those for which they excoriate Republicans. And they don’t seem to be concerned in the least that their party has tapped an opponent of gay marriage (and same-sex civil unions) to address the nation tomorrow night.
If they were just gay Democrats, I might be sympathetic to their silence. By identifying themselves as members of that party, they would signal that they generally agree with the party’s principles. And most partisans recognize that they won’t always agree with their party’s policies nor with those of all its leaders. Gay Democrats could accept the choice of Kaine as a man able to deliver a positive message about their party despite their differences with him on gay marriage, just as we herald Tom Coburn’s leadership on fiscal responsibility despite our concern about some of his statements on gays.
But, a national gay organization should make gay issues — not partisan Democratic ones — its first concern. It should at (the very) least question the choice of a gay-marriage opponent to deliver this coveted address. If there were a Democratic president and the GOP had tapped such a speaker, you can be sure gay groups would be issuing regular statements denouncing the choice.
With the change in HRC’s mission statement and its silence on the Democrats’ choice of Kaine, this group has made clear that it is little more than a gay branch of the Democratic National Committee. It’s time that gay people start treating it as such.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
Please note that this post was inspired in large part by an e-mail exchange last week with Eva Young who blogs at Lloydletta’s Nooz and Comments. I don’t always agree with Eva, but do find her posts interesting and often insightful.