August 16, 2007

"Sometimes, a writer is called to stand up for something"

That's a quote from Andrew Sullivan, who called out Washington Post writer and LOGO/HRC Presidential Forum questioner Jonathan Capehart for not advocating for same-sex marriage in his writing. In fact, in this column from Monday's Post, Capehart gave the candidates a pass on not supporting it themselves:

I don't fault Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama or former senator John Edwards for their opposition to gay marriage, even if their explanations leave me scratching my head. Clinton's mantra that this is a states' rights issue, while logical, makes this descendant of slaves just a bit uncomfortable. Edwards backed off using his Southern Baptist upbringing to justify his opposition. But I still find it hard to believe his opposition is real since his no-nonsense wife, Elizabeth, and daughter Cate are in favor of gay marriage. And I can't even point to a reason Obama is against it, other than his oft-stated belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But that's okay. Look, they've all committed to snagging for the gay community as many as possible of the more than 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities that come with civil marriage that are now denied to committed same-sex couples. Isn't that what everyone's fighting for in the first place? Like it or not, it's a good start, and if one of these Democrats succeeds in winning the White House, he or she should be pushed to fulfill that promise.

And here's something else to think about before some of y'all fill my e-mail inbox with petty putdowns: Republican pursuers of the White House rejected their invitations to talk to the gay community about the issues important to it. Chances are that if they're not interested in talking to you during the campaign, they will be even less inclined to do so if they win.

Isn't the fact that writers like Capehart excuse candidates for coming up short on supporting GLBT equality make it easier for them to do so? The media does influence public opinion--not always a good thing but true nonetheless. Obviously not all journalists, even GLBT ones, are in position to wave the rainbow flag to support same-sex marriage and all other civil rights currently denied to members of the GLBT community, but Capehart clearly had an opportunity here and instead punted.

Sullivan's take was:

Sigh. Capehart's one of the good guys, he's an excellent journalist, and he played a role in getting Bloomberg to back marriage equality. But sometimes movements are too pragmatic for their own good. Sometimes, a writer is called to stand up for something, rather than defend those who cannot stand for what's right. Too many gay activists in Washington have flunked that test. If we are not passionate about our own equality, how do we expect straight politicians to be?

In today's America, most politicians are not leaders, they are followers, servants to opinion polls. The needles move on those polls when advocates have the opportunity to get their voices heard by large numbers of people. If those voices aren't strong and stand up for principles, then voters won't either. If voters don't demand change, today's politicians certainly aren't going to initiate it themselves.

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