Debates

On Gay Issues, Expect All Democratic Candidates to Sound the Same Tonight

The target will be the Republican Party, not each other.

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"I love you!" "But I love you even more!" "No, I love you more!"
Credit: Guillaume Paumier / photo on flickr

Thus far, gay issues have played only a very small role in the debates for the GOP candidates for president. Even after the media firestorm surrounding Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis' jailing for refusing to hand out marriage licenses following the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, it did not get a whole lot of play in the subsequent debate, and to the extent that it did, Republicans were not in agreement whether Davis' behavior was acceptable.

My expectation is that gay issues will be brought up in the Democratic debate tonight, if not by moderator Anderson Cooper, then by the candidates themselves. The reason the Democrats will bring it up is pretty much the same as the reason the Republicans all brought up defunding Planned Parenthood: The Democrats are all on the same page, and thus they can fire up their voting bases to support the party as a whole.

The Republican candidates essentially debated who was going to be meaner to Planned Parenthood if they were elected president. Tonight, we may see Democrats argue over who loves gay people more, if there's any debate to be had at all.

We're likely to see the Democrats get asked about the Equality Act. This is the proposed uber-bill that would expand federal anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity in pretty much all areas where it currently does not (employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, government grants, and jury service). Hillary Clinton supports the Equality Act, as does Martin O'Malley. Sen. Bernie Sanders is a co-sponsor.

More than just outlawing remaining discrimination on a federal level, the Equality Act also greatly expands the definition of a "public accommodation" to include pretty much every type of retail or service business. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually takes a very limited view of "public accommodation" that targeted mostly restaurants, gas stations, clubs and hotels—arguably places where widespread refusal to serve blacks back in the '60s had serious impact. The Equality Act blows this up and makes every accusation of discrimination lodged by a customer a potential federal case. The reason this would have to happen is because service providers like florists, photographers, and wedding venues are currently not covered under federal law, though they are frequently covered by state public accommodation laws. So simply adding sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act still wouldn't give any federal recourse when a photographer or florist refused to serve a gay wedding if the state offered no protection.

But don't expect any analysis or concerns about the potential unintended consequences of massively expanding on a federal level what counts as a public accommodation. The debate will focus on how the Democrats will better protect gay and lesbian voters—regardless of who the nominee ends up being—than the Republicans. As I've noted before (and mention in a magazine piece available online today), the Equality Act has no chance of actually passing, but that's not the point. If they were serious about getting something passed, they could probably pull out the sections on federal grants, jury service, and maybe even the credit components and get those through the Republican-led legislature.

But that isn't going to help the Democrats keep gay votes, and with gay marriage all but gone as a political football, there needs to be something more. The massive broadness of the Equality Act makes it unlikely to garner much Republican support. That's the point. It's intended to show a Republican Party that is still hostile to gay issues, even though there are larger liberty concerns with the legislation.

But, of course, as we see from candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Mike Huckabee, they're more than willing to go along with the Democrats on this fight. There is a vocal segment of the Republican Party that is indeed hostile to gay citizens, and thus it becomes harder to separate arguments based on respect for individual liberty versus those based on the belief that gay marriage recognition is a sign of cultural corruption.

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  1. Can’t at least one of them propose a gay tax?

    You know, just for some flavor? Just for the fuck of it?

    I mean, we have to try different things.

    1. “Fabulous!”

  2. Not only will they sound the same, but also, whatever they said before they started to pander to gays evolved will have been memory-holed.

  3. To summarize:

    “Yay, gay!”

    1. Or, more specifically-

      “Booooos-uh I mean TRUUUUMMPPP”

  4. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

  5. And on tax issues, there will be great differences. Some will propose taxing ‘the rich’ at a 98% rate, while the ‘moderates’ will claim that is entirely too high and want to limit it to 95%!

  6. Tonight, we may see Democrats argue over who loves gay people more, …

    This is going to end with someone being sodomized on live TV, isn’t it?

    1. That’s really the only way to prove you love of the gays.
      Do it for the Team.

  7. But that isn’t going to help the Democrats keep gay votes, and with gay marriage all but gone as a political football, there needs to be something more.

    Smdh, Scott, what more do you need beyond the privilege of bottoming for Hillary?

    1. there needs to be something more

      There already is: Suing anyone who doesn’t sufficiently celebrate the sexual habits of their gay customers.

  8. This whole conversation is gay. NTTAWWT.

  9. I think you might be surprised at how much they may go to that well even though the major issues (gay marriage) are all but off the table. It’s habit. They don’t really know what else to do.

    1. ^This. It’s more or less “Mission Accomplished” for gay rights in most people’s minds, but since the party is intellectually bankrupt on issues like the economy and foreign policy, they will still harp on the issues because TEATHUGLIKKKANZ is evil or something.

      1. +1 “income inequality”

  10. Where is John to make this a 200+ comment thread?

  11. What percentage are gay people of either/any gender of the general population?

    I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to this. Unlike skin color or spoken language sexuality is really hard to define. It’s amazing that the D party has made such success over exaggerating our differences over the past 40+ years. However, it seems to me that instead of uniting our country it only serves to drive deeper and deeper wedges. How much further can we split these hairs? I’m so over giving a fuck about so-and-so’s special group’s rights. We all have the same rights.

    Oh and ‘check your privilege’ is a triggering phrase.

    1. But that isn’t going to help the Democrats keep gay votes, and with gay marriage all but gone as a political football, there needs to be something more.

      Ha! Like Obama didn’t string the movement along for nearly an entire presidency on a promise of something more? Even the portions of the LGBT community that are willing to part with team blue, don’t suddenly buy into libertarianism whole-hog or otherwise clamber for smaller gov’t.

    2. I don’t know how solid the number is, but 2 – 3% has been the percentage that has been floated for years now.

    3. something like 2% seems to be the consensus.

      it is strange that it has been such a major issue. i would be glad to see it go away, now that the gay marriage thing is settled (minus the occasional deluded clerk). but it runs serious risk now of overreach and overreaction to protect nothing more than feelings. (like a transgender pissed off because a BODY SCANNER needs to know if that is a penis.)

      1. Gay marriage is as settled as gun control.

  12. On Gay Issues, Expect All Democratic Candidates to Sound the Same Tonight
    The target will be the Republican Party, not each other.

    Too bad Nostradamus wasn’t around to take Reason’s prophecy correspondence course. He might have amounted to something.

  13. “…it becomes harder to separate arguments based on respect for individual liberty versus those based on the belief that gay marriage recognition is a sign of cultural corruption.”

    Cultural corruption tends to erode liberty.

    1. The individual liberty argument goes to the relevance of the state license to your ability to live your life as you see fit. There’s a side order of equal protection, but practically speaking once you strip out the social recognition of your marriage which may or may not be embodied in a state license, you’re left with tax law treating married and unmarried couples differently, and the evidentiary privilege.

      That’s it. So, if you are bringing an equal protection claim, why not target the underlying/root cause of unequal protection: the tax and evidence laws?

      1. And you probably recall how civil unions – i.e., giving same-sex couples all the legal privileges of married couples except the name – was denounced as a Jim-Crow “separate but equal” arrangement.

        This shows that of course the goal is social recognition. And not just “the state will recognize your relationship while leaving private parties to decide for themselves whether to recognize it.” No, the state must force private parties to recognize the relationship, too.

        And before we claim that this is morally-equivalent to the old regime, bear in mind that under the old regime, private businesses and organizations got to *decide for themselves* whether to provide recognition and benefits to same-sex relationships. That right is now taken away under the new regime.

        1. Well, it would be a “separate but equal” arrangement. De Jure, so was Jim Crow.

          I would have done civil unions for everyone, and if you want to call yourself married, that’s up to you (and your religious institution if that’s your thing).

          1. I was following up on RC Dean’s point that this isn’t simply about visiting your boyfriend in the hospital, or getting a break on your estate taxes, etc. It’s about having your relationship validated by the government.

            If you’re into that sort of thing, fine, but it’s not really based on pro-liberty premises. It’s about government-enforced “dignity.”

            Once you endorse *that,* it’s hard to explain why private institutions should be allowed to deny your “dignity” and “respect.”

  14. I’ll be interested to see what Jim Webb has to say to these lunatics. Not interested enough to actually watch, but maybe to read the recaps tomorrow.

  15. But don’t expect any analysis or concerns about the potential unintended consequences of massively expanding on a federal level what counts as a public accommodation.

    I’m not sure I’m going to continue to refer to them as ‘unintended’ consequences. I believe that the chaos caused by federalizing every individual act in society as the goal.

  16. “But that isn’t going to help the Democrats keep gay votes”

    The Democratic Party will never have to worry about maintaining an overwhelming advantage amongst gay voters.

    It would not be unsurprising to see an 80/20 breakdown in 2016.

    The question of a gay millennial is if the Democrats are too right wing.

    But gay voters are a small subset and are are concentrated in states where the electoral outcome is predetermined.

    However, where gays do play their role is in fundraising.

    And we are loud and opinionated and capable of setting the tone of the culture.

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