Why Democrats need to talk about gay marriage

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This is a big day in the Badger State. The domestic partnership registry is now open and now same-sex couples are eligible to get legal recognition from the state for their relationships. Why is this an important concept in western society? Should it be? Why is there such an emphasis on getting the state to acknowledge your love for another person? Although most advocates of gay marriage or domestic partnerships will herald this day as a victory for human rights and equality, it’s nevertheless important to recognize today as a step forward in pragmatic social policy, in which the value of the family in our society has been affirmed and strengthened.

If there is one issue upon which the liberals have the moral high ground, it’s family values. Simply put, liberals support policies that foster family growth in this country. They support the right of homosexuals, who, depending on data, comprise three to ten percent of our population, to form families. The right does not. Although many on the right have retreated from the junk science claim that homosexuality is simply a lifestyle choice, they continue to paradoxically insist that gays are better off living on the outskirts of society, in certain neighborhoods of big cities, than in the American mainstream, where they can form relationships and start families.

The right now finds itself in a no-man’s land on the issue of gay rights. On one hand, it has a decreasing but still-significant constituency that believes that homosexuality is a choice and a sin that can be fought and killed. On the other hand it is under pressure to appeal to more moderate elements of the right and center, who have, for lack of better words, come to grips with the facts. While they can no longer condemn homosexuality as immoral, they must tacitly support policies that brand it as such by making vague illusions to the sanctity of marriage . The good news is that eventually the latter constituency will win out, and the Republican Party will one day have to apologize for the demagoguery of the Bush years, much like southern politicians had to make up excuses for supporting segregation after it went out of fashion.

In moderate states like Wisconsin, Republicans are quickly realizing that gay rights is not an issue they can win on anymore. Democrats should not breathe a sigh of relief. They should take the issue and hit the GOP over the head with it. Democratic leaders should emphasize the importance of encouraging marriage in our society. They should discuss the importance of encouraging monogamy and how the GOP has tacitly told gays that their relationships are not wanted – that they’d prefer to keep gays in gay bars than in families. Talk about adoption! About the thousands of orphans, who the Republicans believe are evidence of a successfully avoided abortion, but who they’d prefer to keep in orphanages than in loving families.

An appeal has already come from Wisconsin Family Acation, a right wing organization bent on making Wisconsin an artificial addition to the Bible Belt. They are claiming the domestic partnerships violates the 2006 constitutional amendment, because it mimics marriage. Based on the judge’s interpretation, the law could be ruled unconstitutional, but it shouldn’t be. Frankly, the domestic partnerships did not go that far – there are still significant legal distinctions between it and marriage. Therefore, no reasonable judge, with a technical interpretation of the law, would rule that it is a violation.

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