Waymon Hudson

Here Comes the Wedge Again

Filed By Waymon Hudson | November 06, 2007 11:13 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: constitutional amendment, Florida, gay marriage

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe compassionate conservatives are at it again. A constitutional amendment is set to go on the ’08 ballot to “protect marriage” from the evil gays here in Florida. The amendment’s broadly written language mimics that of the amendment passed in Michigan, where domestic partner benefits are being stripped away. The group pushing the issue, Florida4Marriage (named in the same manner as “The Clean Air Act” and “No Child Left Behind”), is only 13,000 votes from getting it on the ballot.

Now you might be wondering, with same-sex marriage already illegal in Florida (along with adoption), why would this amendment be so necessary? Why would people want a wedge issue amendment on the November 2008 ballot in a key battle ground state like Florida if it is unnecessary? Just ask the Florida Republican Party, who had given the campaign for the amendment over $300,000. Not to doubt the motives of the good people in the “Big Tent”, but it all seems very convenient, huh?

Luckily, we here in Florida have two strong groups fighting to push back this effort. Florida Red and Blue (a bi-partisan, independent political campaign) and Fairness for All Families (a coalition that includes seniors, business leaders, consumer groups and social justice organizations) have both out-raised Florida4Marriage in funds. Of course, when you have a deceptively worded amendment that plays into the worst nature and biases of people, sometimes all the money in the world won’t make a difference. Both groups are trying to educate the public (no small feat here in Florida, home of the hanging chad and Katherine Harris) about the broad affect this amendment will have not only on the LGBT community and their domestic partner benefits, but also on seniors and other unmarried heterosexual couples.

It seems that as a rabid, militant, homosexual activist, my one goal in life is to sneak into the homes of straight people and destroy their marriages and families (cue the ominous music). And what is the best way to stop this insidious gay agenda? Why, government intrusion into our private lives, removal of established domestic partnership benefits, and attacking seniors, of course! That makes perfect sense. Thank goodness we have these morally righteous people looking out for us.

You really have to wonder what, if any, are the true values of these marriage protectionists… Or maybe you don’t have to wonder at all-- you can just look at their actions.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 6, 2007 1:12 PM

The GOP has a long history of using divisive wedges to win elections and this is no different. Yes, this proposed constitutional amendment is about bashing gays, but even more so it is about helping the Republican nominee for president win the state in 2008. Its calculating and cynical and what we should expect from Republicans.

I agree, Michael. The gay-bashing part is just icing on the Republican cake...

bill perdue | November 6, 2007 2:22 PM

None of this would have the impact it does if the Democrats hadn't joined the Republicans to overwhelmingly sponsor the federal DOMA. It passed by a vote of 85-14 in the Senate and a vote of 342-67 in the House.

Although written by Newt Gingrich, who all along intended it to be a wedge issue, Bill Clinton willingly signed it on September 21st, 1996. He also hoped to use it as a wedge issue to win back the Congress for the Congress. Within a week Democratic ads began to appear in the south touting the Democrats support for the bill.

Clintons Dixiecrat strategy backfired and now we have state DOMAs in 36 states. The only glimmer of light in this is that polls are beginning to show that’s it’s not the hot button issue it once was, and as younger voters enter the electorate it’s support will continue to diminish. But it could take decades to undo the bipartisan damage of the DOMAs, especially in states where it's a constitutional question.

I completely agree that Democrats have too often sacrificed our community (like with DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell).

However, I think saying that these Republican movements to add "marriage protections" to state constitutions is somehow because of, or made worse by, the Democrats rolling over in the past is kind of a stretch. This is complete Republican Party politics 101: use bias and fear (in this case, of gays destroying marriage or activist judges destroying the "sanctity of the family unit") to get the base out to vote in tough election years.

I hate when so-called "values voters" are really just uninformed bigots in disguise, and that’s all this is. It’s playing to the worst parts of people, the part that says hate and punish what is different than you. And that’s exactly what the GOP wants. It won them elections in the past and they hope it will do the same next year.

By the end of the Michigan campaign, we literally had folks who had carried petitions to get the damn thing on the ballot calling us to say if they had known how far it really went, they never would have supported it in the first place. A few were even kind enough to say so on the air on talk radio. :)

Moderates might be scared of "gay marriage", but they don't like the idea of taking away people's health care and retirement benefits, either.

Mostly, the traction that we did get was from using the "what are they trying to hide" kind of message... it got people to listen, and it attacked the Right's credibility. (They kept insisting, pre-election, that the amendment woundn't affect benefits in any way and was "just about marriage", then proved our point by turning around and suing over DP benefits almost immediately after the thing passed.)

If there's one good thing to come out of losing that battle, it's that now, any state facing similar language won't have to raise hypotheticals - they can just use history to point out what lying idiots the amendment's proponents are.

The backers of this amendment keep insisting the same thing, that it will only "strengthen existing laws, not take away any rights." Yet as you say, WJ, we have proof from other states that they will push it as far as the vague language and conservative courts allow.

We here in Florida are really hoping to educate the public on exactly that fact…

PS - it should be noted that this is, at least partially, revenge for a minimum wage initiative used to great success by the Left in FL in 2004. Perhaps we need to take a serious look at using other progressive measures that have widespread public support? The Right's been using ballot measures very effectively for a long time, so perhaps we can to the same and exploit their weaknesses for a change.

PPS - Anyone know why the two different campaigns? Or do I not want to know?

I don't see how DOMA relates to the passage of this law...

They beat this in AZ, they beat it in Indiana (in committee), and I'm sure you can beat it in Florida.

The reason being given for the two groups is that Fairness for All Families is more of a grassroots organization that existed before this amendment and will continue after. Florida Red and Blue is the political, big money arm of the campaign that will most likely be doing media and large scale action, plus work to get support from both democrats and republicans (hence the "Red" and "Blue"). Florida Red and Blue will dissolve once the amendment is defeated.

And I agree, Alex, we can beat it here. It will be hard, but we can do it.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | November 6, 2007 5:03 PM

Florida's lot's bigger and far more Bible-Belt Southern Baptist Klan turf than Arizona. Central Florida is nothing if not one big CentCom defense industry haven, for instance, and the Panhandle is just Extra-Southern Alabama. The Klan has a big foothold in the areas around Tampa/St. Pete and Jacksonville and the Cubans aren't represented in Congress by arch-homohaters Ros-Lehtinen and Martinez for nothing.

Central Florida is also home base for Exodus, Intl., and home to what I believe is the most dangerous antigay litigation firm in the nation, The Liberty Counsel, that Hoosiers will remember in Hinrichs v. Bosma, the legislative prayer case. The Liberty University affiliated firm has a long history of very effective litigation on their antigay docket. Their brilliant leader's, Mathew D. Staver, book, "Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk", is their movement's premier tome on the subject -- a 'must-read' for every aspiring bigot-activist.

The state is relatively unorganized with a few urban centers of fundraising and huge gaps of no-queers-land in between. A door-to-door campaign in much of the state could easily get people killed. Should this get on the ballot, the cost of not doing that by relying on mass media with much territory to cover and some pretty expensive media markets will be many times the exciting levels of fundraising that have been attained.

Then there's the issue of the numbers and what can be changed in the amount of time there is to change it. The non-gay unmarried for fiscal reasons senior domestic partners will be hurt by the amendment and they're a powerful voting bloc but persuading them of that takes, first of all, reaching them and that's neither easy nor cheap.

But, on the plus side, it's not a bad place to come volunteer!

bill perdue | November 6, 2007 6:20 PM

Waymon -
Is the relationship between the Democrats enthusiasm for DOMA and its use against us is really all that much of a 'stretch' or is part of a long term trend.

Here’s another stretch. The Democrats were elected to end the war. Instead they've given Bush all he wants and now the US is dug in so deep that no candidate of any party will get us out. Like Vietnam, it will take the defeat of US forces on the ground to end the war.

Is it a 'stretch' to say that the Democrats are equally accountable? Couldn't they have impeached Bush and Cheney and brought the troops home?
If they win in 2008 are you confident that that they’ll bring the troops home immediately and summon an International War Crimes Tribunal?

The Democrats claim to be against gay bashing. Recently about a dozen Democrats, led by Feinstein joined Republicans to put gay bashers in the 5th Circuit Court and in the Attorneys Generals office.

Is it a 'stretch' to say that the Democrats will be equally answerable for the antigay rulings and activities of these right wing bigots?
The point is that when differences in the lesser evil equation can be measured in nanoliters when do we say enough is enough?

Since the ENDA treachery, the answer is sooner than people think, because ENDA, DOMA, DADT, the war, etc, are not anomalies - they're the rule.
All we have to do is keep an open mind and the Democrats and Republicans will make up our minds for us.

Actually, the Fairness for All Families campaign was formed specifically to defeat this amendment back in 2004 because there was a good chance the amendment would be on the ballot in 2006. As with Red and Blue, it is a campaign that will be dissolved after the November 2008 vote.

You are absolutely right, Andrea. Thanks for the fact check. :)

As for Bill's comment, I agree that the Democrats are by no means constant defenders of the LGBT community. However, in the case of the amendment here in Florida (which is what the posting is about), it was the Republican Party that funded the effort. While I don't like the way Dems throw us under the bus at times, I think it is less of a crime than the rampant and upfront LGBT-bashing of the Republican Party, which this amendment is an example of. That's just how I see it.