Democrats are starting to embrace same-sex marriage in places where they think they can use it to beat Republicans. And all of a sudden — poof! — it is no longer as a “wedge issue.”
In 2001, seven homosexual couples sued Massachusetts, arguing that the state violated their rights by not allowing them to marry. Two years later, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court agreed, declaring in November 2003 that people have a right under the state constitution to marry someone of the same sex. And though liberal activists and a liberal court brought this issue to the forefront of American politics just as the 2004 presidential campaign was getting underway, it was somehow the Republicans who dug it up to divide the country, according to Democrats and the mainstream media.
In November 2003, days before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its famous ruling, The Boston Globe reported that Republicans were considering using the issue in the election if the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
“Under pressure from social conservatives who want President Bush to campaign against gay marriage in 2004, GOP officials say they are studying battleground states where same-sex unions could be a wedge issue in national and state races, and they are weighing endorsement of a proposed federal constitutional amendment sanctioning only heterosexual marriage,” the Globe reported.
The Globe portrayed Republicans as highlighting party differences on same-sex marriage solely for political advantage in states where they would benefit from the contrast. No doubt Republicans had an ear to the ground on that issue. That a political party might also genuinely oppose same-sex marriage seems not to have occurred to the Globe — until this week.
The “wedge issue” angle became a Democratic Party and mainstream media talking point for the 2004 election. In December 2003, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe told the Globe that same-sex marriage was a “wedge issue” brought up by Republicans to distract from the real issues. “George Bush wants us to talk about those other issues, because he can’t talk about jobs, he can’t talk about health care, he can’t talk about education,” McAuliffe said. “This election is not going to be about these wedge issues that the Republicans and George Bush want us to talk about.”
In a February 6, 2004 interview, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley asked RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie about same-sex marriage, saying, “Might that be a wedge issue? I’ve been reading some memos that you guys might use this as a wedge issue to pick up some black votes.”
But that was last year. Now Democrats are starting to embrace same-sex marriage, and suddenly it is no longer a “wedge issue.”
The Massachusetts Democratic Party is planning to endorse same-sex marriage in its party platform next week. Might the Democrats, in a state in which some polls show broad support for same-sex unions, be searching for a wedge issue? Not according to the Boston Globe.
“While platforms exert little influence on candidates’ positions on issues, they tend to reflect the widespread sentiments of a party’s core membership,” the Globe stated in its Wednesday story on the state Democrats’ insertion of same-sex marriage into their platform. It followed with polling data showing that a majority of Democrats support same-sex marriage.
Also on Wednesday the Denver Post reported that Colorado’s Democrat-controlled Legislature killed a bill to ban same-sex marriage and passed a bill to ban discrimination against homosexuals.
“The recorded vote Tuesday fell along partisan lines in the Democratic-controlled legislature, which Michael Brewer, policy director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Colorado, said takes basic gay rights seriously,” the Post reported. No mention of “wedge issues” or behind-the-scenes Democratic strategy anywhere in the story, of course.
Democrats in Iowa and Colorado have written the support of same-sex marriage into their party platforms. Massachusetts will follow next week. As this trend widens and Democrats perceive championing same-sex marriage to be advantageous, watch for the words “wedge issue” to start disappearing from news reports on the subject — until Republicans come out in opposition to the Democrats’ tactics. Then suddenly it will be a purely political issue again. When Republicans talk about same-sex marriage, it’s a wedge issue. When Democrats do, it’s a civil rights issue. Because as everyone who believes the big media knows, Democrats care only about doing the right thing; Republicans care only about winning elections.
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