I’ll start by highlighting the words of the openly gay, maddeningly brilliant, conservative Catholic columnist, Andrew Sullivan, who can be counted on to be honest and fearless in his criticism of partisan b.s. on both sides of the aisle.* Here’s what he had to say about Marygate in the New Republic last week:
“Was her privacy violated? Of course not. She is an openly gay person. She
once had a job at Coors specifically designed for gay and lesbian outreach. She
was once a member of the Republican Unity Coalition, a now disbanded group
seeking gay inclusion in the GOP. Her lesbianism is a matter of public record.
More important, she is critical in running the campaign of the vice president.
How much more public could she possibly be? She cannot hold down a public
campaign job as an open lesbian and then cry foul when this is brought up."
“The truth is that Kerry and Edwards have absolutely nothing to apologize for.
And an apology would only legitimize the anti-gay prejudice that permeates the
premises of an argument like Safire's. After all, if Kerry congratulated the
president on the conduct and charm of his straight daughters--as he did in the
first debate--no one would accuse him of being out of line, of invading
someone's "privacy." And yet by congratulating the vice president on the conduct
and dignity of his gay daughter, he is somehow beyond the pale of decency. It
only makes sense if you believe that lesbianism is something to hide, be ashamed
of, or cover up. Obviously that's Safire's view. But he should be explicit about
that and defend it, rather than relying on it as a premise for his case."
The real truth about Mary is that I think it’s very likely that MOST of America still feels at least some of that shame – that being a lesbian is wrong, “something to hide, be ashamed of, or cover up” as Andrew describes.**
I think it's because of this sentiment that progressives allow gays in America to remain in a state of limbo, living precariously within the confines of a sort of post-colonial era/Dred Scott v. Sanford stage of American social and legal standing (you know, 3/5 of a real, i.e. straight person). In such a climate, it’s better to not mention one's sexuality, better to “pass” for straight if you can than to admit you’re gay, much like light-skinned blacks passing for white used to.
If that seems too harsh, one might even argue that gays have attained the equivalent of blacks' post-civil war, but pre-civil rights movement status, enjoying Plessy v. Ferguson style “separate but equal” rights. According to that ignoble doctrine:
"A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and
colored races -- a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races,
and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the
other race by color -- has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races...The object of the [Fourteenth A]mendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either."
Is this the compromise we "progressives" really want to advocate? This separate but supposedly “equal” sort of citizenship?
Yes, this is the feeble Democratic Party position, which endorses civil union, but not the “sanctity of marriage” for gays. Separate but equal. Never mind that the separate but equal era ended in the 1950s, that its principle logic was dismissed fully 50 years ago in regard to blacks (in our hallowed 1954 Brown v Board of Education). Or that even if this separate status and distinction wereacceptable,*** it’s obviously not even close to equal in the case of the legal protection afforded civilly united same sex couples compared with married ones.
Marriage and civil union are certainly not equal in terms of financial privileges. Unlike San Francisco’s now invalidated same-sex marriages, as every politician knows, state-sanctioned civil unions, those often referred to, politically convenient, pseudo-marriage, "marriage- lite” alternative partnership arrangements, can not possibly proffer equal status to same sex couples since they’re not recognized by federal law. As a result, the I.R.S. for example, offers lucrative tax breaks to straight couples that can not be enjoyed by same-sex civilly unified couples.****
In light of these facts, this middle-of-the-road Democratic party position that affirms “marriage is between a man a woman only” and that marriage is an issue for the states to decide (a “state’s rights issue”, like slavery and segregation before it) is a clearly hypocritical political compromise. This party line says it’s not ok to violate the constitution to discriminate against gays; that’s too harsh, too extreme, you know “too Republican”, but we can be privately, modestly ashamed of our homosexual friends and family members as long as we’re polite about it. And it’s ok, even RIGHT, to discriminate a little in light of our cherished Judeo-Christian religious beliefs. Because the Church says marriage is between a man and a woman, and you know that’s the “higher” authority we defer to these days in the United Theocracy of America.
In light of all this, no, I’m not at all upset that Kerry mentioned Mary Cheney’s sexuality in the third debate. Anti-gay discrimination is a reality we need to confront. And yes an issue that we need to personalize so it hits home. I'm not ashamed of that. But I am ashamed that as a Kerry supporter I’m complicit in the lie that he repeats whenever asked, that a little discrimination against gays is OK, even though I know better (and, let’s be honest, he does too).
* Gee I hope Andrew wouldn’t think I’m gratuitously outing him by referring to his sexuality in public.
**For example, I am ashamed but must (ironically) to admit to my own hypocrisy, that I fall into this category, that I know this because my family isn’t exactly jumping for joy and extending invitations to my recently declared lesbian relative.
***And just to be clear, no, it’s not.
****So as a moderate Democrat and a thinking person I’m supposed to be happy that our implicit stance towards homosexuals is: we don’t hate you, but we’re certainly not proud of you, at least not enough to go out a political limb for you, so we’ll only discriminate a little?