February 25, 2011
By Adam Bink
The predictions from anti-equality leaders in response to the Obama administration’s move on DOMA are pouring in:
NEW YORK — Angered conservatives are vowing to make same-sex marriage a front-burner election issue, nationally and in the states, following the Obama administration’s announcement that it will no longer defend the federal law denying recognition to gay married couples.
“The ripple effect nationwide will be to galvanize supporters of marriage,” said staff counsel Jim Campbell of Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group.
“The president has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging Congress,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the president’s neglect of duty.”
In Rhode Island, the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, said Thursday that his diocese would “redouble its efforts’ to defeat a pending same-sex marriage bill in response to the announcement. In Iowa, conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats said the DOMA decision would invigorate a campaign to repeal the state’s court-ordered same-sex marriage law.
“This gives us more credibility than ever with this issue,” said Vander Plaats, who wants to topple the Democratic leadership in the state Senate that is blocking efforts to put a same-sex marriage repeal proposal on the ballot.
Perkins, the Family Research Council leader, suggested that House Republicans would risk alienating their conservative base if they did not tackle the marriage issue head-on.
“The president was kind of tossing this cultural grenade into the Republican camp,” he said.
“If they ignore this, it becomes an issue that will lead to some very troubling outcomes for Republicans.”
Brian Brown, president of the conservative National Organization for Marriage, predicted that Obama’s decision not to defend the federal DOMA would spur efforts in some of the remaining states to join the ranks of those with constitutional bans.
Indiana lawmakers took a step in that direction last week, and Brown said it was possible that amendments could gain traction in Wyoming, Minnesota, North Carolina and even New Hampshire, if GOP lawmakers succeed in repealing the state’s same-sex marriage law.
“This raises the stakes and makes clear the executive branch is not willing to carry out its responsibility,” Brown said. “I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination the tables have turned on this issue. People in this country know what marriage is.”
Thing is, as I look at the numbers and get a sense of people’s priorities when I travel the country, it’s harder and harder to find people who (a) are even clear on what DOMA is (b) prioritize it above whether their trash gets picked up twice or three times per week, or whether they have a job. I’m serious. I’m not saying there aren’t hard-right activists and politicians out there and we shouldn’t expect DOMA-style legislation in the states to fight, but for goodness’ sake, look at CPAC. For years it was the bedrock of everything anti-LGBT, anti-choice, school prayer, you name it. But younger conservative activists are coming into the party who are with us on some of the LGBT issues and, even if they aren’t, don’t give a flip. Not only that, but I took a class on European politics in college, and I always remember a fascinating paper demonstrating that legislation and regulation on non-economic “soft” issues- LGBT rights, drug policy, the environment, etc.- always advanced in strong economic times and never in poor economic times. Now, there are obviously exceptions to that- look at repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”- but my point is people have a few dozen bigger priorities in this economic climate, and with threats of climate change and other issues looming, when evaluating, say, their Presidential candidates, than DOMA, if they even understand what it is.
I think Perkins and the rest are expecting a very different party rise up than what they will see.