I know very little about Gordon D. Fox, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. And that little I have read of the man indicates that in the debate over gay marriage, he is one of the few, to borrow (and build upon) an expression, adult politicians in the room.
Although the Democrat, who happens to be gay, supports state recognition of same-sex marriage, he had a back-up plan when he could not get enough votes (on gay marriage legislation) in a chamber where, according to ballotpedia, his party controls 65 of the 75 seats:
Rhode Island’s House speaker has given up on passing legislation extending marriage rights to gay couples this year, because he says there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate.
Gordon Fox says he will recommend that the House doesn’t move forward with a vote on the marriage equality bill during this legislative session, and instead will support a civil unions’ bill that gives legal rights to same-sex couples in the Ocean State.
In short, when he couldn’t get the votes on gay marriage, he adopted a different tack — and today the Ocean State recognizes same-sex civil unions. For some, this may not be the ideal, but for gay couples, it’s a lot better than it was before Fox’s sensible compromise.
Which brings me to Barack Obama. Last night, when returning him from an Outfest event, I caught this from a lesbian Facebook friend, who had recently attended what appears to be the Democrat’s 150th fundraiser* where she was one of many gay and lesbian Angelenos giving the president an “enthusiastic welcome” in Beverly Hills: “He is eloquent and charming, but also a very pragmatic realist.”
A “very pragmatic realist”? Oh, really?
She’t not the first gay person I’ve heard call him pragmatic. And she’s one of many who hasn’t paid much attention to his actual record. If he were pragmatic on gay issues, he would haven’t needed to follow the lead of Speaker Fox, he would have known that, in the wake of Prop. 8’s passage in California the same day he won more than 60% of the state’s vote, he couldn’t move forward on gay marriage.
He may well, however, been able to effect a compromise on civil unions. A pragmatist, a realist, would have reached out to congressional Republicans likely to support state recognition of same-sex civil unions. And when his party enjoyed majorities in both houses of Congress, he never once invited such Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine or Representatives like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen or Charles Djou and worked on crafting a bipartisan approach on civil unions.
Barack Obama is many things, but he is neither a pragmatist nor a realist, particularly on gay issues.
Gordon Fox is. And he has taken considerable grief for it. Wonder why more gay people don’t offer this man more acclaim. After all, he did take action to improve the lives of gay men and lesbians in his jurisdiction.
*Actually his 151st or 52nd.