Republicans face sinking support if they continue to resist gay marriage

The GOP’s opposition to same-sex unions has cracked open

Share

Joe Baranco, 32, an intensive care nurse in Austin, Texas, is in contortions over gay rights. Government backs the institution of straight marriage with tax breaks because it has a stabilising force on society. “But I am not sure yet that gay married couples offer that,” Mr Baranco said. Neither is he clear that overdue legislation the US Senate seems poised to pass protecting gays, bisexuals and transgender people from workplace discrimination is sensible.

It’s not that Mr Baranco is against either thing. His problem is that while he is gay himself, he is also a conservative Republican – a tricky spot. If Democrats are now in the swim in the fast-running rapids of homosexual rights in America, Republicans are only just dipping in their toes.

The number of states now allowing gay marriage has doubled in one year to 14. Illinois passed a same-sex marriage law on Tuesday; that will make 15. This spring, the Supreme Court overturned the Defence of Marriage Act ensuring federal recognition of same-sex couples tying the knot. And then there is what happened in a Senate cloakroom on Monday as Democrats pushed for passage – at last – of the workplace-protection law known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or Enda. To avert a possible filibuster and ensure members could even debate the thing, Democrats needed 60 yes votes and thus the support of at least seven Republicans. Even as voting started they were short, but Jeffrey Merkley, its main sponsor, had three GOP waverers captive in said facility. He harangued and cajoled until one by one, including Rob Portman of Ohio, they gave in and the bill was spared.

Last year, before Mr Portman was briefly in the frame as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, he broke with party orthodoxy and declared himself in favour of same-sex marriage. He did so after his son came out. That presumably taught him a few other things – that Congress, and Republicans especially, are way behind the rest of the country on all this and that being gay isn’t even that exotic any more. It’s a non-issue.

That was the point made also by Michael Michaud, a Democrat Congressman from conservative northern Maine who is running for governor next year, when he moved this week to silence foes gossiping that he may be gay. “Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: ‘Yes, I am but why should it matter?’” he wrote in a column. The consensus is that this will have helped him towards becoming America’s first openly gay governor.

Republicans are scared of being punished at re-election time by the Tea Party right. Maybe they shouldn’t be. In Tuesday’s off-year elections, a viciously anti-gay Tea Party candidate for Congress in Alabama, Dean Young, lost to the choice of the GOP establishment, Bradley Byrne. Republican Chris Christie won a second term as New Jersey governor one week after ending his opposition to gay marriage in his state. It was a fine night for liberals too: Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia governorship; Bill de Blasio is to be New York’s first Democrat mayor in 20 years.

If, as expected, the Senate passes Enda this week, it may yet be killed off by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. But what happened in that marble-clad toilet is nonetheless remarkable. The Republican wall of resistance has cracked open. And a subsequent warning shot from a spokesman for John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, evincing opposition to Enda was notable for not deploying the usual moralism. For most of the last decade anti-gay language has profited Republicans. No more. Even Texas, which eight years ago changed its constitution to prevent it ever recognising same-sex marriage, is suddenly in a mess. Before the justices of its state Supreme Court in Austin – conservatives all – is a case bought by a lesbian couple who were married legally in Massachusetts but now live here. And they want to get divorced here. What to do?

When it was suggested to Mr Baranco that maybe he just thinks too much, he replied: “You are not the first person to tell me that.” The message might be the same for Republicans in Washington. Join Senator Portman and his six colleagues who crossed the aisle this week. Let go of that branch.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones