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Getting over gay

BY ADAM SULLIVAN | APRIL 16, 2009 7:30 AM

I have a Ronald Reagan-inspired cowboy tattoo.

It’s on my left thigh — high enough that it’s invisible even when I’m wearing shorts, but low enough that I can show it off if I get the opportunity.

I like to think I’m an undercover conservative; I have square-framed glasses, a lip ring, and a Mac laptop. I don’t do it on purpose. It just so happens to be — to my dad’s dismay — that I love piercings and tattoos as well as Ronald Reagan and free markets.

So, naturally, my Republican tendencies make it a no-brainer that I hate gay people. Right?

Not quite.

For me, it all starts two weeks ago when the Iowa Supreme Court handed down a ruling which made Iowa the third state to allow man-on-man marriage or woman-on-woman marriage. Vermont followed suit shortly thereafter, and a handful of other states are lining up to be the next. Gay marriage is on a roll.

And what are Republicans doing? They host counter rallies in Des Moines, wielding signs which declare things like “children need a mom and a dad” or “re-criminalize sodomy.” Bob Vander Plaats — who the Republicans will probably nominate to run against Gov. Chet Culver next year — posted Tweets about how he planned to spend the day praying for Iowa’s families. Conservatives flooded newspaper comment boards, calling for lawmakers to do whatever than can to put a stop to such sacrilege.

And all that is really starting to piss me off. Am I an outspoken supporter of gay marriage? No. I’ve always been near the middle of the issue. I connote “marriage” with the union between a man and a woman. But I do think gay couples deserve to have legal protection the same way straight couples do. It really comes down to what that one word — “marriage” — means. But I’m not going to lose any sleep over the way the law defines that word.

That’s where Republicans are missing the point. It’s OK to cling to traditional values. I respect conservatives’ right to believe homosexuality is a sin punishable by the flames and torment of hell. But is that really what they want to put at the cornerstone of their platform in the next election and probably the one after that?

That’s what they’re doing. Republicans plan to make the definition of a single word their major campaign issue in 2010 and maybe even in 2012. That shows how much the Republican Party has distanced itself from average people. I know the majority of Iowans oppose gay marriage. But is that the sole issue on which they’ll cast their ballots? Doubtful.

I think it’s far more likely that voters — even the ones who oppose gay rights — will overlook the same-sex debate and instead vote based on our weak economy, two costly wars, and government spending, which is completely out of hand. If Republicans don’t give up on the gay marriage debate, they’ll lose … and lose badly.

To young conservatives — and maybe to some old ones, too — same-sex marriage is a non-issue. To have any fighting chance at election wins in the future, Republicans have got to get over their fear of homosexuality. It’s OK to oppose homosexuality, but to put that belief at the forefront of a campaign is absolutely irresponsible.

Republicans should take a cue from such Iowa Democrats as Culver and Sen. Tom Harkin. Both politicians have been, predictably, political about the issue. They’ve made it clear they disagree with the Iowa Supreme Court’s definition of marriage, but they haven’t made asses of themselves by making gay marriage the only issue that they care about.

Children born today will grow up in a gayer world than ever before. Gay-rights advances such as the ones in Iowa will continue to make open homosexuality increasingly acceptable. That’s undeniable; the same thing started happening with blacks’ rights 60 years ago and women’s rights 20 years before that. I hope the next generation of Republicans will give up on their crusade against gay rights before the issue makes their party obsolete. Until then, siding with Republicans is embarrassing.

But maybe someday there won’t be a need to hide Republican-inspired tattoos.


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