Right after posting my piece, John McCain & the Gay Vote, I e-mailed Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff encouraging him to link it on the Blade’s Blogwatch. Readily assenting, he alerted me to a post he had just posted on the presidential election.
After reading it, I wrote back, taking issue issue with some of his points and standing “by my prediction that McCain will do better than 30% of the gay vote provided Obama is the Democratic nominee–and am even willing to bet a dinner (with wine) on it.” He took the bet.
As usual with anything Kevin has written, this post is well-worth reading even as I disagree with many of his major points. I disagree with him that the gay political movement is a “civil rights struggle.” If it is, then it’s over. By the traditional understanding of civil rights, we have them in the sense that we can participate fully in civil society. We can vote in elections, express our views publicly, associate with individuals of our own choosing and other wise carry about our lives freely as do our straight peers.
The problem is that most states (and the federal government) do not recognize our partnerships and the military still discriminates against openly gay individuals. We need legislation recognizing those unions and overturning that ban. But, note, these are privileges the state grants not rights it denies.
As to the issue of the McCain vote, I don’t think the issues Kevin raises, particularly the Supreme Court, will matter much to gay Americans considering a vote for the Arizona Senator. While many of them, including yours truly, wish the presumptive GOP nominee would push to repeal DADT, we understand that our candidates don’t have to be perfect.
The gay Democrats and Independents (as well as a near unanimity of gay Republicans) likely to vote for McCain will do so because of his overall record. They see that while his record on gay issues is far from perfect, he did lead the opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 while the then-presumptive GOP presidential nominee, George W. Bush, gaining a reputation for attacking gays and losing support in our community.
Still, many gays and lesbians stuck with him that year, largely because of his leadership in the War on Terror. And John McCain is not tarred by his support for that pernicious proposal to amend the constitution.
Finally, I disagree with Kevin that a “McCain presidency would set back the cause of gay rights by a generation.” Kevin bases this largely on the Supreme Court justices a President McCain would nominate. It’s unfortunate that too many gay activists look to the Supreme Court as did those in the Civil Rights’ movement. The issues are so different today. We don’t need favorable Supreme Court rulings to improve our position in civil society; that’s already happening spontaneously.
Now, all we need do is make sure the court doesn’t strike down laws state legislatures have enacted recognizing gay unions. And John McCain indicates that he would appoint judges who don’t legislate from the bench, showing respect for conservative justices who have deferred to state legislatures.
Thus, unlike Kevin, I don’t think it’s “unconscionable for Log Cabin to entertain a McCain endorsement.” Yes, his support of the 2006 Arizona referendum is troubling, but he has shown a greater degree of tolerance for gay Americans than had any of his rivals for the Republican nomination (save Rudy).
Perfect John McCain ain’t, but good enough he is. And many Americans, including a large number who backed John Kerry in 2004, will find themselves pulling the lever for the GOP nominee this fall, largely because they better trust him to lead our great nation than they do his likely Democratic rival.
And I gotta hope enough of them do so I can enjoy a nice dinner in good company this fall–at someone else’s expense.