Based on the commentary of some of my left-of-center gay friends on Facebook last night, the Republican presidential candidates engaged in a hatefest against gay people. I did not watch the debate. I am back in my hometown of Cincinnati and preferred to spend the evening with my brother.
Then, this morning, after spending time with my second youngest nephew and youngest niece, I had a brief break to check the blogs. Reading Jennifer Rubin’s commentary on the debate (in particular that the “ABC moderators. . . were, in a word, horrendous [fixating] on gay marriage and contraception for far too long“), I decided to go to the transcript. I thought Jon Huntsman gave the best answer on gay marriage (more on this anon).
But, although we may not agree with what Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney said, their words can hardly be described as “hateful.” Indeed, both men showed some sympathy for the concerns gay couples have when governments don’t recognize our unions, notably when one partner is hospitalized. I cite Newt first (since he spoke first and since Romney referenced him on hospital visitation rights):
Well, I think what I would say is that we want to make it possible to have those things that are most intimately human between friends occur. For example, you’re in a hospital. If there are visitation hours, should you be allowed to stay there? There ought to be ways to designate that.
You want to have somebody in your will. There ought to be ways to designate that. But it is a huge jump from being understanding and considerate and concerned, which we should be, to saying we therefore are going to institute the sacrament of marriage as though it has no basis.
The sacrament of marriage was based on a man and woman, has been for 3,000 years. Is at the core of our civilization. And it’s something worth protecting and upholding. And I think protecting and upholding that doesn’t mean you have to go out and make life miserable for others, but it does mean you make a distinction between a historic sacrament of enormous importance in our civilization and simply deciding it applies everywhere and it’s just a civil right.
Emphasis added. In other words, he says pretty explicitly that we shouldn’t make life miserable for gays. He also makes clear that he believes the institution of marriage is based on the union of a man and a woman and it’s been that way for thousands of years. Now, let’s turn to Governor Romney:
Well, the answer is, is that’s a wonderful thing to do, and that there’s every right for people in this country to form long- term committed relationships with one another. That doesn’t mean that they have to call it marriage or they have to receive the — the approval of the state and a marriage license and so forth for that to occur.
There can be domestic partnership benefits or — or a contractual relationship between two people, which would include, as — as Speaker Gingrich indicated, hospital visitation rights and the like. We can decide what kinds of benefits we might associate with people who form those kind of relationships, state by state.
But — but to say that — that marriage is something other than the relationship between a man — a man and a woman, I think, is a mistake. And the reason for that is not that we want to discriminate against people or to suggest that — that gay couples are not just as loving and can’t also raise children well.
But it’s instead a recognition that, for society as a whole, that the nation presumably will — would be better off if — if children are raised in a setting where there’s a male and a female. And there are many cases where there’s not possible: divorce, death, single parents, gay parents, and so forth.
But — but for a society to say we want to encourage, through the benefits that we associate with marriage, people to form partnerships between men and women and then raise children, which we think will — that will be the ideal setting for them to be raised.
Emphasis added. His response is similar to the one that Dick Cheney made in the 2000 Vice Presidential debate, saying the issue of government recognition of gay couples should be decided on a state by state basis. And he acknowledges, albeit awkwardly, that gay couples can be loving and can raise children. That’s hardly hateful.
More on this anon (I hope). Got to get ready to watch my nephew’s basketball game.