WHAT are we to make of an erstwhile Republican strategist and vocal opponent of marriage equality who does a complete 180 and decides that not only is he now pro-gay marriage, but he wants to spearhead an effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Arizona and Florida? That would describe Tim Mooney, who left his Republican strategist gig to help Rick Perry become governor of Texas in 2004, only to surface in recent months with a plan to put the marriage question on the ballot in two states that currently ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions. which would entail repealing the existing laws. And who could object to that?
The trouble is, Arizona and Florida are both states in which marriage equality would almost certainly go down to defeat if put to a popular vote. Such an outcome would deal a serious blow to the momentum for marriage equality across the U. S. of A. For this reason, GLBT activists and organizations have responded with skepticism and withheld their support, pondering whether to trust the motives of a former Rick Perry organizer.
The case for skepticism seems to me more clear-cut than all that, as witness the two states that were selected as battlegrounds. Both require a super-majority to repeal a constitutional amendment—in Florida it’s an impossible sixty percent—while both states run behind the national average in public support for same-sex marriage. (Any significance to the fact that they chose the two stereotypical “retirement states”?)
If this is a strategy designed to stop the marriage equality bandwagon, however temporarily, it means that these guys are now resorting to “dirty tricks” to advance their cause—always a sign of desperation, an admission that they’d lose an honest fight. (See full report here.) Indeed this is quite consistent with what seems to be a general Republican strategy to perpetuate their power regardless of the majority will. Many “red states” are passing wildly restrictive laws, often without hearings or debate, that systematically disenfranchise millions of voters—disproportionate numbers of minorities, young people, seniors, the less affluent—who tend to vote Democratic. (They also do it through extreme gerrymandering.)
It’s all part of what seems to be a scorched-earth policy that Republicans have embarked upon: better to go over a “fiscal cliff” or shut the government down than pass a single law, however necessary, that’s favored by the President. Then there’s the Congressional kabuki dance whereby, for example, the U.S. House votes to repeal Obamacare for the thirtieth time. In the case of same-sex marriage, one can imagine a scenario in which ballot initiatives are launched in many red states that already have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, only to reaffirm the status quo. It’s superfluous; it’s pointless; but it feels so good. And it couldn’t be more cynical.