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Thursday, November 04, 2004  

Politics: Disdain for gays decisive

I've said opposition to full citizenship for homosexuals is becoming the new component of the GOP 's Southern Strategy several times this year. As I observed the machinations of the Southern based Christian Right and the Bush administration, it seemed increasingly clear that there is a current of contempt toward gays that is as easily tapped as racism. In February, I posted an entry titled, "Gay unions the issue for Christian Right."

Christian conservatives have decided to rally around opposition to gay marriage as their focus issue for the campaign season. Having their candidate win the White House, with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, turned out to be a mixed bag. Since, far Right Christian organizations have had difficulty attracting attention and raising money with the direct mail campaigns they rely on. One issue they've used to galvanize their public is continuing agitation to erode the constitutional safeguards against establishment of religion. Another, disapproval of gays marrying, has now emerged as prime.

. . .The most significant change in American political scene during the last decades was the emergence of the GOP's Southern Strategy. It encouraged the exodus of working and middle-class white Americans from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. That in turn, resulted in conservative dominance of federal politics. The GOP has also increased its share of governorships and other state offices. If the Christian Right has its way, the opposition to gay unions will bolster the gains made by the Southern strategy. But, will Bush stick? The answer to that question may determine whether gay rights will be the dominant domestic political issue in this decade, as opposition to civil rights legislation was during the the 1960s.

It is not that contempt for people of color, particularly African-Americans, is no longer a significant characteristic among a sizable proportion of the American electorate. It still is. And, the Republicans can count on a Solid South mainly because of continuing opposition to integration, affirmative action and other aspects of no longer 'keeping them in their place.' But, the reliance on racism of the GOP has become the norm. A generation has been reared to spout the vacuous slogans of opposition to civil rights for nonwhite Americans on demand. Neo-Confederates, including Sen. Trent Lott, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, hold powerful positions of political leadership. It was time for the next stage.

Opposition to expanding the rights of homosexuals by including them in laws against employment, housing and health care discrimination, decriminalizing homosexual sexual acts, and allowing them to marry, provided an opportunity for the GOP to reenergize its base and expand its ranks.

The New York Times says that opposition to gay unions may have been the determining factor in George W. Bush's narrow victory.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 3 - Proposed state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage increased the turnout of socially conservative voters in many of the 11 states where the measures appeared on the ballot on Tuesday, political analysts say, providing crucial assistance to Republican candidates including President Bush in Ohio and Senator Jim Bunning in Kentucky.

The amendments, which define marriage as between only a man and a woman, passed overwhelmingly in all 11 states, clearly receiving support from Democrats and independents as well as Republicans. Only in Oregon and Michigan did the amendment receive less than 60 percent of the vote.

But the ballot measures also appear to have acted like magnets for thousands of socially conservative voters in rural and suburban communities who might not otherwise have voted, even in this heated campaign, political analysts said. And in tight races, those voters - who historically have leaned heavily Republican - may have tipped the balance.

. . ."I'd be naïve if I didn't say it helped," said Robert T. Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. "And it helped most in what we refer to as the Bible Belt area of southeastern and southwestern Ohio, where we had the largest percentage increase in support for the president."

Missouri and Louisiana had already acted. (The Louisiana amendment was invalidated by a state court.) Among the states approving amendments against gay marriage Tuesday were Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The few remaining will likely make the move in 2005, bolstering statutes that already ban gay marriage, in some cases. They are creating a new kind of Solid South, one that has proven itself just as opposed to political and social equality for homosexuals as it is to equal treatment of racial minorities.

Reasonably related

For a list describing the legal situations of all fifty states in regard to gay marriage, visit Stateline.org.

7:15 AM