Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) put same-sex marriage back in local headlines last week after she threatened to “out” adulterous lawmakers in Montgomery who have resisted the issue.
“This [is] a time where you find out who are accepting, loving people,” Todd wrote in a Facebook post last month. “To say I am disappointed in Speaker Hubbard’s comments and Attorney General Strange’s choice to appeal the decision is an understatement. I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have. I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet OUT.”
The Birmingham lawmaker, who is openly gay, was reacting to Alabama leaders’ decision to appeal a federal court ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
Todd later told Birmingham radio host Matt Murphy that her lawyer advised she not follow through and went on to drop the threat. Despite backing down, her gesture has elevated Todd to a folk hero among some gay and lesbian activists.
The effort also suggests something else — maybe it’s time for conservatives to drop the same-sex marriage issue.
There was a time when opposing same-sex marriage was a political winner. In 2004, months before his reelection bid, then-President George W. Bush endorsed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The impetus for his endorsement was a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which granted marriage rights to same-sex couples and then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It was also seen as a way to energize social conservatives heading into Bush’s contest against John Kerry.
The likelihood of such an amendment being added to the Constitution was nil, but it wound up being a winner for Bush, who was later reelected.
That was over a decade ago and it definitely wouldn’t be as successful nationally as it was then if Republicans tried to do the same thing in this upcoming election. But it probably wouldn’t even rate well in Deep South. You’ll always have the Roy Moore element within politics, but catering to that crowd is not exactly part of a winning formula (see Dean Young versus Bradley Byrne, 2013).
There is also a much larger ideological question, which is if you’re truly conservative and skeptical of government’s involvement of your everyday life, then why should the government have any say in the marriage business? Certainly there is a need for a legal recognition of a marriage, but it probably should not go much further than that.
So why should any politician make opposing same-sex marriage their Waterloo?
It’s now ammunition for the politically correct part of our society to use against the political right. You can depict your opponents as homophobe bigots, which is if we’re taught anything from our pop culture — is a bad place to be. It’s not that conservative voters are yearning for marriage equality, but it’s just not the overwhelming single issue it used to be.
Last year, Robertsdale native and Apple CEO Tim Cook paid a visit to his home state. During Cook’s homecoming he offended a lot Alabamians by speaking out against the state’s resistance to marital equality.
“As a state, we took too long to steps toward equality,” Cook said at a ceremony honoring new inductees into the Alabama Academy of Honor at the State Capitol. “We were too slow on equality for African-Americans. We were too slow on interracial marriage, and we are still too slow for the equality for the LGBT community.”
Granted, Cook days later announced he was gay, which would explain his outspokenness on the issue. But if the CEO of the world’s most profitable company is bothered by this — with all of his ties to the state, including having graduated from Auburn University — couldn’t that be indicative of a lot of other national business leaders’ attitudes toward Alabama? And could that not lead to a reluctance to locate within the state?
Conversely, it doesn’t seem like there are any businesses looking to locate within the state because of a resistance to same-sex marriage.
Patricia Todd was definitely out of bounds to suggest she was going to call out adulterous lawmakers. Instead of winning over a handful of activists in New York City and California, she likely would have done more for her cause in the state to actually argue the merits. Make the case that there is little to gain resisting it.
The state will still likely spend time and money fighting a national push for same-sex marriage recognition. Gov. Robert Bentley, Chief Justice Roy Moore and Attorney General Luther Strange have indicated their opposition to it. And there is a case to be made that it should be left up to the states to decide their rules for marriage.
Eventually, however, the federal government will be forced to act because you can’t have rules in one state that differ from another when it comes to a legal institution. The Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution won’t allow it.
Whether we like it or not, the trend nationally by state governments is to recognize same-sex marriages. That’s not to say it should be championed, but it’s not worth the fight to resist that trend, especially with all the woes facing the state of Alabama and the rest of the country.