Part 3: The Republicans Don't
In today's Walkback Wednesday feature, we look at the Republican party's role in doing everything possible to thwart marriage equality, marriage equivalence, marriage parity, marriage approximation, and on and on and on.
Once the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" was passed in 1996, battles over marriage equality were mainly fought on the state and local level. Nationally, it was a big issue for the religious right, but as for congressmen and senators, it was just one more component of an antigay agenda along with keeping gays out of the military and the Boy Scouts, and making sure we couldn't adopt children. Oh, and there was impeaching President Clinton to keep Republicans busy.
There are a few antigay politicians in the above cartoon from January, 1998: Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), Pat Buchanan, Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), and House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) are closest to the foreground. Barr was the author of the DOMA, although he would repudiate it as presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party ten years after this cartoon was drawn.
With the election (by five lawyers) of a president who was a friend of the religious right, Republicans continued their pushback against marriage equality. When he came up for reelection, George W. Bush, with his Brain Karl Rove (and gay quisling Ken Mehlman) needed an issue to fire up his base, and Republicans were ready, willing and eager to run with it:
A more liberal Republican, namely California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who didn't have to worry as much about appealing to Christian conservatives as Republicans who might aspire to the highest office in the land do, dared to warm to the idea of domestic partnerships. But that was about as far as it went.
Schwarzenegger, however, was pretty much an anomaly in the Republican party. He was never going to run for office outside of California, and Republicans were relieved just to have one of their own in charge of a solidly blue state, so he didn't have to toe the GOP's hard-core antigay line. The party's presidential hopefuls last time around, on the other hand, were not at all shy in that regard.
It didn't take much to remind LGBT voters that while it didn't make any difference which Republican ended up getting nominated for president, it makes a world of difference who sits in the Oval Office when the election is over.