Saturday, October 4, 2008

Setting it straight: John McCain on marriage equality

Senator John McCain has never been a staunch defender of marriage equality. However, he has managed to maintain the illusion that he is moderate on this issue and that he believes above all that it should be left to the states. I believe that he has achieved this primarily by opposing the Bush attempt to amend the US Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

However.... for anyone who is interested, he has taken the stance in individual state battles that their constitutions should be amended to define marriage thus. He has also opposed creation of domestic partner status on the record.

With regard to CA Proposition 8 on the ballot this year, McCain released the following statement:

"I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions."

This statement is a tad misleading, since the statute currently enshrined in AZ law is NOT an amendment to its constitution, but merely a part of its civil code, and it has since been the case in AZ law that equal marriage was not a legal possibility. In contrast, CA Prop 8 aims to do two things most distasteful to civil libertarians: it aims to amend the state constitution in order to discriminate against persons of a particular group, AND it aims to remove a civil right that has already been upheld by the CA courts.

Incidentally, and somewhat ironically, there is a similar measure (AZ Prop 102) on the ballot in McCain's home state of AZ this year, and he is not on record as having said anything whatsoever about it. However, in 2006 he actively campaigned in favor of AZ Prop 107, which would have not only amended the AZ constitution, but denied any kind of domestic-partner rights to gay AND straight unmarried couples!

Text of AZ Prop 107 from 2006, emphasis added by me:
To preserve and protect marriage in this state, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or its political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage.

The following was his statement on this extremely harsh measure:

"I believe that the institution of marriage should be reserved for the union of one man and one woman, said Sen. McCain. The Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment would allow the people of Arizona to decide on the definition of marriage in our state. I wholeheartedly support the Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment and I hope that the voters in Arizona choose to support it as well."

---McCain in 2005, smiling placidly while holding a number of the actual petitions that ensured this measure made it onto the ballot. The woman beside him is the late Lynn Stanley, who was at that time the chair of Protect Marriage Arizona.

The broad language included in AZ Prop 107 is the sneaky kind that often slips past the electorate at large. The voters of Arizona are to be commended for taking notice of its nefarious intent and consequently being the first (and thus far only) American electoral population to turn away the gilded offer of a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. Unfortunately, the current AZ Prop 102 contains no such surreptitious language and I believe it will probably pass, despite the general distaste of many Arizonans for amending their state constitution on such frivolous grounds. Regardless, it surprised me at the time, and continues to surprise me, that McCain signed on to such a punitive measure. It leads me to a very narrow set of conclusions:

-Mayhap he did not read the very short measure that he was endorsing?
-Perhaps he did read it but the elusive language slipped his ostensibly well-trained legislative grasp?
-Or, worst of all, might it be that our esteemed Senator uses the cloak of federalism, of leaving marriage issues to the states, to disguise contempt for the notion of equal marriage as well as for the possibility of any other kind of approximated civil equality for same-sex couples?


Even a righty like Palin pretended to be all about some forms of civil equality in the debate. She chose her words carefully enough, but that was certainly the position she aimed to convey. She's made it perfectly clear on the record herself that she's not really all that into domestic partnership and conferring the civil rights of marriage, but that's a whole other topic and should surprise no one at this point.

I promise that this won't be a one-note blog, as I have lots of other stuff to muse and rant about. It's just on my mind and I've heard so many people say that they think McCain is moderate, or hasn't weighed in, on this issue. He's officially in!

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