Young: In 2013, these rights are winners
March 8, 2013
The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Mark Ferrandino, is gay. So are five of his colleagues, all Democrats.
Once closeted, marginalized and demonized, all are “in” by virtue of a progressive wave that now has the whole of Colorado governance in Democrats’ hands.
Out? Former House Speaker Frank McNulty. In May, though the House had enough votes to pass a bill authorizing same-sex civil unions, including a couple of Republican defections, McNulty refused to allow the bill to come up for a vote.
It was the last official thing he did in said capacity. One of the first acts of business in that newly constituted body was to enforce the public will and enact civil unions, with a bill that is rapidly advancing. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign it.
Bulletin: Oppression based on sexual orientation is a loser. Gay rights are a winner.
With voters assenting Nov. 6 in Washington state, Maryland and Maine, nine states now allow same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Minnesota voters refused to write a ban into their constitution. And days earlier a federal court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act – you know, because it treats people unequally.
The right speaks with righteous fury about our blessed Constitution being ignored. The last thing it really wants, though, is the 14th Amendment and “equal protection of the law” taken literally.
The people of Wisconsin are fine with that interpretation, though. They looked at Tammy Baldwin’s sexual orientation (she’s a lesbian) and her qualifications (not necessarily in that order) and elected her to the U.S. Senate. She defeated the state’s most well-known politician, former governor and Bush cabinet member Tommy Thompson.
Gay rights is a winner, and not just because of the Constitution, though that should be sufficient. Another reason: Discrimination against gays and lesbians is a loser among young Americans. They don’t understand it. People are people. (Whether the issue was slavery, women’s suffrage, Jim Crow or school desegregation, this concept has been a hard sell in America for most of its storied, exceptional past.)
Speaking of women, here’s another bulletin from Nov. 6: As a campaign issue, reproductive rights are a winner.
Planned Parenthood? Mitt Romney wishes he never brought it up. Abortion? Republicans made it a central issue while “speaking to the base” in the primaries, but ran frantically away from it in November. Comments about rape and pregnancy by Indiana’s Richard Mourdock (“God’s will”) and Missouri’s Todd Akin (“legitimate rape”) ruined campaigns blessed and consecrated by the tea party.
In Colorado, the “Bennet strategy” is being hailed as one for winners. In 2010, when so many in his party lost, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet went after tea party/religious right darling Ken Buck for being extreme, principally being dead set against a woman’s right to choose. Bennet’s victory showed that the campaign appeal resonated with centrist voters, and not just women.
In 2012, President Obama’s commercials in battleground states came out strongly and repeatedly on these matters. These appeals wouldn’t let women forget which dance partners Romney had chosen.
Remember when it appeared that the president’s disagreement with Catholic bishops over health coverage and contraception would hurt him among Catholics? No, it didn’t. Obama won the Catholic vote by roughly the same margin by which he won the national vote.
Some will seek to diminish these things as insignificant side issues. When the economy is under such strains, maybe that’s so. But such matters still matter.
Like the demographic tide that is trending Democrats’ way, these issues are indicators of winners who will change with the times and losers who, like the hangers on to ol’ Jim Crow, liked it much better in the 1950s.
Longtime newspaper editor John Young lives in Fort Collins. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.