Asked about his position on same-sex marriage a year ago, John Edwards said that he "personally [does] not"support gay marriage, citing his religious beliefs as basis for his opposition. Even without the hindsight we have recently acquired about Edwards' own marriage, this was the response of a bigot.
We now know that as with most bigots, Edwards is a hypocrite. As he was spewing inane statements about being "on a journey" on the issue of gay marriage, he surely had to remember the journey that lead him just months earlier to break his civil obligations and spiritual vows in his union with his wife Elizabeth.
Of course, Edwards is not alone among Democrats, let alone Republicans (the story of John McCain dumping his first wife for heiress Cindy needs to be told more often.) The Clintons, for instance are in a wide open relationship of convenience. Bill has in the most grotesquely public fashion made a joke of his marriage, fully enabled by his wife. They both compounded the original sin (according to both their religions) by lying about it, and putting the full weight of the presidency behind a public assault on Monica Lewinsky, among others. That Bill then had the indecency to sign the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the Federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, was perfectly fitting. And, of course, the Clintons still "oppose" gay marriage ("I think a marriage is as a marriage always has been, between a man and a woman," she has said, possibly the most stupid thing she has ever uttered.)
Barack Obama has been marginally more subtle, with a wink and a nod in private meetings with gay supporters, and, at least for now, his marriage is not the public sham that the Edwards' and Clintons' are. Obama has also been somewhat less patronizing, saying in at least one private fundraiser that it is not for him to tell gay people what to ask for and when, or to tell them to be patient. He has also said that he feels America is "not there yet," a dispiriting cop out that leads him to do his civil union dance in a bid not to alienate more conservative voters while throwing something to gay Democrats. He knows as well as anyone that a separate and equal treatment of gay and straight relationships is impractical, imperfect and simply is not equal in fact, in law and in spirit. The disastrous result of recent civil union legislation in New Jersey, especially contrasted with the smooth marriage transition in Massachusetts is the plainest evidence so far that anything but marriage does not grant equal rights and obligations.
It is shocking that politicians with personal lives as deeply flawed as Edwards, the Clintons, McCain and hundreds of others (including self-styled progressives), set themselves up as defenders of an institution they have raped of all moral significance. And it is nauseating that in the process they have the power to deny millions of couples the option of whatever social recognition and legal and financial security comes from marriage.
Perhaps most irritatingly, gay people are told to be realistic. That the marriage issue simply isn't important, especially compared to war in Russia, war in Iraq and war in Iran. Compared to the housing crisis. Compared to the recession. Compared to high taxes. Compared to the deficit. This is ironic because, in fact, for most same-sex couples in the United States, the inability to marry has far more impact than any of those other issues. Every day without equal marriage rights means that millions of gay people are unable to receive proper health care because they can't afford to be taxed on the premiums that the more enlightened employers grant to significant others. It means hell for uncounted numbers of immigrants in long-term relationships who are in the US illegally because they can't marry. It means that couples are torn apart at the most fraught moments of their lives, at hospitals, for instance. It means, all in all, a ridiculously high financial, emotional and legal cost, every single day.
It may be that politicians do not realize this, as the gay people they encounter in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco are the ones who raise millions for them every year, and are hardly among the most affected. It may also be that many straight voters do not realize this, either, so effective is the establishment media, enabled by homosexual court jesters, at portraying gay people as frivolously wealthy or at least solidly middle-class. The gay media is not really much better: they are desperate to show that their readers can afford $100 vodka, $1,000 shoes, $100,000 cars and $1,000,000 homes, so that advertisers flock to this magically wealthy market, thanks to warped, unreliable polling.
Right-wing conservatives and their Democratic allies on this issue also like these stereotypes as it makes gay people look like a bunch of whining rich spoilt brats, who on top of that are sexually deviant. Interestingly, war, taxes, housing, etc, do not seem the priority of a lot of people devoted to denying rights (ANY rights, not just marriage) to gay people, if the continuing flood of "anti-marriage" (really anti-gay) referendums and initiatives is any indication.
There is little doubt that in the not so distant future, full marriage rights will be available to same-sex couples in the United States, but not if those who support such rights, including straight people, simply sit back and relax. Politicians need to be held accountable on this issue as they are on others, and should know that a wink and a nod, no matter how flirtatious, will not do it in 2009, even if we will close our eyes, hold our breath and vote for an "opponent" of gay marriage one last time in 2008.