One Step Forwards, One Step Back

So, gays are getting a lot of press these days.  On the one hand, you have a sitting American President coming out in favor of gay marriage.  President Obama did so with qualifications, hedging a bit, but, overall, his endorsement of marriage equality is a huge step forward, not just for gays, but for all of us.  While polls have indicated that the country is pretty evenly split on the issue, the trajectory that public opinion is taking makes this an issue that’s not going to be much of one for a whole hell of a lot longer.  I would argue that within ten years, the majority of states in this country will allow same-sex marriage, and shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court will have no choice but to strike down the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that allow states not to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.

This is an issue on which the public has changed positions with breathtaking speed.  Just a decade ago, support for same-sex marriage was, by comparison, miniscule.  Over the course of the decade, people, much as the President, ‘evolved.’  This issue seems to be progressing faster than anyone has previously anticipated.  Vice President Joe Biden seemed to chalk it up to the NBC sitcom Will & Grace.  And while I’m sure that cultural depictions of gays had something to do with it, I think what probably shifted opinion more than just TV.  Everyone, it seems, knows someone who is gay.  It’s much harder to actively oppose gay rights when you know people who are gay.

On the other hand, you have Mitt Romney.  Aptly timed with the President’s policy shift this week, classmates of his from Cranbrook Academy in Michigan revealed that he assaulted a classmate who was presumed gay.  According to reports, he pinned the poor guy down and cut his hair in order to teach the kid a ‘lesson,’ or something.  Romney has responded in the fashion that we’ve come to expect from him.  Sorry, don’t remember the incident, but if I did, and hurt anyone’s feelings, my apologies.  Classmates involved in the incident vividly recall it, and feel horrible about it.  The reason that I use the term ‘assault’ is that one of the guys involved, who was voiced considerable remorse and regret over it, is an attorney, and used the term himself.

The President shifting positions on gay marriage won’t do a lot to change the election.  But allegations of Mitt Romney acting in such a fashion just might.  It reinforces the narrative that he’s the kind of guy that’s simply unable to empathize with others.  Registering an ‘apology’ of the tenor that he offered does more good than harm.  Painting it as a youthful prank is, at best, and true to form, disingenuous.  Holding down a terrified, closeted adolescent and shearing off his hair because you suspect he’s gay isn’t a prank, these days, it would be considered a hate crime.  Such is the caliber of the two men we have running for President.

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