Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do the Gay Debates Matter

Do the Gay Debates Matter?

America’s first queer-centric presidential debates are set to kick off on Thursday in California, offering voters a closer look at where the democratic presidential hopefuls stand on homo issues.

By all accounts, the debates will go down as a historic moment. Never before in American history have gay people and their issues been given such an official platform.

Whether there’s need for such a platform, well, remains open for debate.

In a press release announcing the event, Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese, who will also be acting as one of the debate’s four moderators, wrote:

These candidates have expressed a unified belief and echoed the majority of the American people by stating that same-sex couples deserve federal recognition. It is extremely encouraging to finally see the focus of the debate around the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans center around extending the American value of equality to all people. 2008 is not 2004, and the American people have already put out the warning that divisive, wedge politics that pit neighbor against neighbor will not be tolerated.
Joe’s absolutely right: 2008 ain’t 2004, when the GOP paraded gays as a national scapegoat. Some voters choose to believe gay people cost Kerry the election. As we’ve seen, however, gay marriage may not been that divisive in 2004. In fact, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Dr. Kenneth Sherill wrote a detail report aimed at shattering that myth:

Despite claims to the contrary, same-sex marriage did not cost John Kerry the presidential election. Data from the 2004 national exit polls indicate that same-sex marriage had little net effect on the outcome of the election.
Regardless of whether or not the gays have positive, negative or no political influence, it’s nice to see Democrats coming out for the queer cause. But, again, does it mean anything?

Some people, such as Chris Rovzar, seem to think Hillary, Barack and Richardson qualify as social and cultural heroes. The Democrats are nothing less than a queer justice league, minus the queerness.

If the Dems are confident enough to tackle gay issues head-on for a full hour, it means they’re no longer worried that the Republicans will throw it back in their faces. They’re not afraid, and more importantly, they’re betting voters aren’t afraid either.
In his Huffington Post piece, Rovzar also explains how “gay issues” have lost some of their fearful steam. Gay marriage in Spain, South Africa and parts of America have not led to a massive hellraising. In fact, things to be going be pretty well on that front. Barring an appearance from Satan himself, the anti-gay Republicans don’t have a leg to stand on:

As real-life experiments with equal gay rights are carried out federally and locally all over the world, the GOP can no longer count on the issue to scare voters to the ballot box.
That said, one can’t help but wonder if the Democrats really are taking a chance. Does bravery without the threat of death really count as brave. Does a battle without a war make any difference? As Rovzar writes:

As real-life experiments with equal gay rights are carried out federally and locally all over the world, the GOP can no longer count on the issue to scare voters to the ballot box. It may be that the long-term results in those places are not what gay activists would hope for, but in the short term, growing familiarity with the issue is working in their favor. The Democratic presidential candidates, sensing this change, have come out of their shells to talk about the issue openly and comfortably.
Perhaps too comfortably?

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