Evan Wolfson | Gay Marriage | Joseph Biden | News | Sarah Palin

Evan Wolfson on the Biden-Palin Debate and the Freedom to Marry

GuestbloggerThis message regarding last night's debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin arrived in our mailbox from Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom To Marry, the gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide. I'm happy to republish it here.

As I've noted to some colleagues and reporters, analyzing last night's exchange on same-sex couples and marriage:

Biden_palin_3The good news is that Senator Biden expressed his belief that gay and non-gay couples should be treated equally under the law, and committed to support for the incidents of marriage, the legal protections and responsibilities that come with marriage. The bad news is that he stopped short of supporting actual equality through the freedom to marry itself, the only way to provide the full security, clarity, and protections that marriage alone brings, and failed (as did the moderator) to point out the inconsistencies and falsehoods in Governor Palin's answer. His comments garbled the distinction between religious rites of marriage, properly left to religions to decide, and the legal right to marry, regulated by the government, which should not discriminate. Supporters of gay equality should not be using the anti-gay forces' false talking-point (introduced by Governor Palin) that ending gay couples' exclusion from marriage is "redefining" marriage; marriage is not "defined" by who is denied it.

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

The good news in Governor Palin's answer was that she felt obliged to go out of her way to proclaim herself "tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves," a position that, if true, raises the question of why the law should then discriminate against those Americans, whether in marriage or other legal mechanisms such as domestic partnership (which she opposed in Alaska and tried to overturn by constitutional amendment).

Her assertion of non-judgmental "tolerance" is inconsistent with her chuch's hosting an anti-gay "change through prayer" program that she has refused to repudiate. And her claim that "not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties" is at odds with Senator McCain's support for anti-gay constitutional amendments such as the one in Arizona that would have impeded legal acknowledgment of gay couples and denied the range of protections, from marriage down to specific legal measures such as partnership recognition, to unmarried couples, gay and non-gay.

McCain's and Palin's actions -- nearly always rejecting pro-gay steps and measures, nearly always supporting anti-gay positions -- is the worst news.

Overall, then, the bad news is that while one party's positions are immensely better than the others, both candidates failed to support full equality for America's gay families (despite Governor Palin's invocation of "equal rights" as an American value in her closing); the worse news is that the real and immense difference between their actual positions -- one supporting actual movement toward equality and fairness, the other offering bland assurances belied by actual policy positions deepening discrimination -- may have gotten lost.

And, to end on a positive, it is good news that yet again we see that the discussion around marriage equality is moving politicians, sincerely or otherwise, to greater acknowledgment of gay families and the wrongness of discrimination against them. That one presidential ticket is indeed committed to specific legal measures to reduce discrimination and, indeed, tacit support for marriage equality, even if they won't yet embrace or explain it, is perhaps best of all.

— Evan Wolfson, FreedomtoMarry.org

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Comments

  1. Right on, Evan! When we get Obama in office it will only be a matter of time before he declares his full support for marriage equality - to all couples.

    And how belittling of Palin to say she wouldn't challenge a partner's right to see their loved one in the hospital. How generous. She's a real winner...

    Posted by: Kurt from Milwaukee | Oct 3, 2008 2:09:36 PM


  2. well there you have it, neither obama or biden support gay marriage... what do you queens have to say about that? well, don't be too surprised if you are all thrown under the bus in the future my dears should they be elected.... they need your vote, but what are they actually going to DO for you? NADA!!!

    Posted by: the queen | Oct 3, 2008 2:13:03 PM


  3. I disagree that it was "bad news" that Biden stopped short of expressing support for the term "marriage."

    Had he done so, he risks alienating people who plan to vote for Obama/Biden, which is clearly the ticket more favorable to gay rights.

    We should obviously be able to get fully married, but we do not need the politicians who will help us get there to lose because they were too supportive that they turned people off.

    Posted by: Dan B | Oct 3, 2008 2:13:41 PM


  4. Obama will not support gay marriage. Ever. Neither will Biden.

    Figure it out people. They've just told us in no uncertain terms that gay marriage ain't gonna happen in an Obama administration. Pretending otherwise is simply delusional.

    They've already made it clear that repealing DADT ain't a priority. Our concerns will be dumped at the first hint of anything at all like opposition.

    Posted by: Roscoe | Oct 3, 2008 2:25:15 PM


  5. I think it's notable that lots of gay people didn't seem to notice how Biden tried to force Palin's hand to acknowledge that in principle, gay people deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples. I give Biden major credit for that. He was unquestionably speaking in INTENTIONALLY veiled terms -- essentially saying that they support civil unions, just not the use of the word 'marriage' -- but he tried to wedge Palin in there. She wouldn't bite, sadly, but points to Biden for tryin' to stick it to her!

    Posted by: GMB | Oct 3, 2008 2:26:53 PM


  6. I agree with Roscoe.

    They aren't going to ever support gay marriage.

    They will never recognize our civil rights. They would rather pretend to be our friends by "leaving it to the states".

    It is the federal government's duty to protect our civil rights, and Obama simply does not believe that we should have that right.

    Obama does not support equality. Obama would NEVER say that interracial marriage is something that should be left for the states to decide. He recognizes that people regardless of race have certain civil rights that must be protected. Why would he say gay marriage is best left for the states to decide?

    The answer is he simply does not recognize our civil rights.

    I cannot in good faith for a candidate that does not fully view me as a citizen of the United States.

    Posted by: Eric | Oct 3, 2008 2:39:08 PM


  7. "They've just told us in no uncertain terms that gay marriage ain't gonna happen in an Obama administration. Pretending otherwise is simply delusional"

    It's delusional to believe that same-sex civil unions recognized by a federal government headed by Barack Obama would not be a GIANT step forward for gay people's rights.

    Homosexual Republicans don't give a flyin' fuck about marriage rights for homosexuals. They believe in tax cuts and "putting Nigras back in their place."--just like a good Miss Alaska should believe.

    Posted by: Derrick from Phily | Oct 3, 2008 2:41:40 PM


  8. I agree with Biden. Marriage as a religious institution should not be told what to accept via the government. There is, believe it or not, a separation of church and state. I do support a union that is sanctioned by the government to allow visitation, adoption, inheritance, insurance, etc.

    Posted by: James | Oct 3, 2008 2:43:24 PM


  9. If the churches were so adamant about the separation of church and state, they would stop taking public money and the tax breaks they are given.

    Posted by: Eric | Oct 3, 2008 2:46:22 PM


  10. Wouldn't Obama repeal DOMA? Right now, legally married gay couples are being denied federal benefits -- how can this be constitutional? The pressure to repeal on this point alone would be immense.

    I'll be really interested to see if a court challenge to DOMA pops up (or hasn't already)...

    Posted by: Tim | Oct 3, 2008 2:48:41 PM


  11. baloney.
    If you read Evan at all, you will know that the road to marriage equality will look a lot like the road to any other major civil rights struggle. patchwork.
    We'll get there but it will take time. I'll take civil unions any day and take marriage when society catches up. I know you all know this is light years from where we where 4, 8, 12 years ago.
    LIGHT YEARS.
    I'll take it. Get em' elected, then hold their feet to the fire.
    That is how it is done.

    Posted by: banshiii | Oct 3, 2008 3:00:41 PM


  12. Queen, we live in the real world, not a fairytale castle like you.

    We'd all prefer a candidate who would forthrightly stand for our rights. That does not mean Obama and McCain's presidencies would be identical for GLBT. Non-insane Supreme Court nominations, ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, lots of good things can happen under a more liberal president. Chances of any of those changing under McCain? NADA.

    Posted by: TikiHead | Oct 3, 2008 3:08:29 PM


  13. "It's delusional to believe that same-sex civil unions recognized by a federal government headed by Barack Obama would not be a GIANT step forward for gay people's rights."

    No one said it wasn't a giant step forward. But it same sex civil unions recognized by a federal government headed by Barack Obama IS NOT THE SAME THING AS FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY. To pretend otherwise is delusional.

    Biden's little statement was fine as far as it went, and it went very far, don't get me wrong. It is as good as we're going to get for now.

    But I just don't see the sense in pretending that these guys give a damn about real equality until they drop the "separate but equal" nonsense. We're going to be at the back of that particular bus for a very very very long time.

    Posted by: Roscoe | Oct 3, 2008 3:41:15 PM


  14. In the interest of full disclosure, I should have noted that during college I was a summer intern for Senator Biden in (gulp) 1976.

    Posted by: Evan Wolfson | Oct 3, 2008 4:27:29 PM


  15. well then maybe it's time we took the lesson and marched on Washington again. As the fiance of someone in the military in a state where I can legally marry, I'm a little beyond frustrated. Equality is a federal issue and I personally was thrilled that he didn't toss it to the states - because that is a load of BS, just another way to pass the proverbial buck with an issue that has a high ick factor for the het population. And just FYI: if you don't live in CA please donate to No on Prop 8 anyway: we're an influential state and trust: there are going to be more lawsuits that may take us where we need to go.

    Posted by: znsd | Oct 3, 2008 4:28:42 PM


  16. "I agree with Biden. Marriage as a religious institution should not be told what to accept via the government."

    James, no one is arguing that religious institutions should be told whom to marry. Civil marriage and religious marriage are 2 different things, and we are arguing for full civil marriage equality. (I would support CUs for everyone and marriage left to the churches, but that's another story.) Churches can be as bigoted as they want. Both Biden and Obama have mangled this point in their "I do not support gay marriage" answers. That said, while they are wrong on this, they are right on nearly every other gay issue from DADT to hate crimes legislation to full support of CUs. If some of you idealists can't get behind them, okay, just don't pretend that the Republicans are even in the same ballpark with respect to gay rights.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 3, 2008 4:34:28 PM


  17. Obama & Biden support full legal equality for civil unions and marriages. The Obama platform calls for full parity under the law, including the repeal of DOMA.

    You get all of the federal benefits of marriage:taxes, inheritance rights, etc. Your civil union is recognized under federal law. Federal law trumps state law. Killing DOMA forces other states to recognize recognize civil unions and marriage:

    Therefore all those state constitutional laws banning any form of gay domestic partnerships are rendered moot!!

    Is this perfect? No. But is it a frickin' awesome thing? Yes!

    The real fight is in the Supreme Court! The Supreme Court can decide a case, as it did in Loving v. the State of Virginia, to declare that gays have a right to "marry."

    Folks, the last thing we need is for a repeat of 2004 where the GOP got the fundies to the polls under the pretext saving marriage from the evil queers!
    ---------

    Lost in all of this debate is the more important issue of ENDA!

    Look, in the majority of states, gay people can be fired or denied housing because of their sexuality. Obama and Biden want to pass ENDA, which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation (and hopefully gender identity). McCain and Palin don't.

    It's disappointing that marriage has become the more important issue when having and keeping a job is arguably just as if not more important for the survival of an individual or couple.

    Please, people, don't let idiots like this lowlife, would-be "Queen" mislead you from the truth! There is a huge difference between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin in terms of which team is a real ally to GLBT Americans.

    Andy,

    Could you please publish something to explain how important ENDA is? People need to under

    Posted by: noah | Oct 3, 2008 5:04:20 PM


  18. "No one said it wasn't a giant step forward. But it same sex civil unions recognized by a federal government headed by Barack Obama IS NOT THE SAME THING AS FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY. To pretend otherwise is delusional"

    Not the same thing, but if we really had ALL the rights, as Biden suggested, I could live with a difference in name for many years. It's more important to me that I be treated absolutely equally under the law (taxes, inheritance, social security, etc) than that I have the designation "marriage."

    Currently we are nowhere near equality. There is NO real difference NOW between a VT CU and a CA marriage, because they both grant the same rights in state and neither grants ONE federal right.

    People can't wrap their heads around what a world would look like in which we really had CUs that were legally equivalent because we are so far from it.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Oct 3, 2008 5:42:55 PM


  19. Palin did ok, but what do you expect from someone who's been in seclusion for days cramming for this thing. I trust her and McCain about as far as I can throw a moose.

    Posted by: James Poppinga | Oct 3, 2008 6:19:38 PM


  20. Get over yourselves fellow Gays...of course Obama can't come right out and say he supports "marriage equality" - we want him to WIN! ...but he's the best chance the LGBT community has at being treated fairly in America...WISE UP! OBAMA 08!

    Posted by: Disgusted American | Oct 3, 2008 7:36:01 PM


  21. I wasn't surprised by the cadidates' comments on gay civil rights, unions or marriage. I agree that we should give Biden points for not wavering, and trying to wedge Palin into agreement; that move was both principled and politically shrewd as she would have to answer to her base. She wiggled out of it. I was stunned that Ifel avoided religion and abortion in an apparent effort to keep that bar for Palin exceedingly low. Palin has radical views on both, and she got a free pass -- why?

    Posted by: Joe H | Oct 3, 2008 10:54:17 PM


  22. "of course Obama can't come right out and say he supports "marriage equality" - we want him to WIN!"

    So basically he's just another worthless fucking liar who will say anything to get ahead. That's cool.

    Posted by: paul | Oct 3, 2008 11:19:33 PM


  23. Nice, Paul. So what's next for you? Vote for McCain? Get a grip on reality, vote for the better of two potential evils, and keep up the fight. But make no mistake, NOT voting for Obama will hurt you and the rest of us in the long run. Deal.

    Posted by: Joe H | Oct 4, 2008 12:40:02 AM


  24. There's no chance in hell that I would vote for McCain/Palin, nor sit out the vote entirely. I will vote for Obama/Biden, but all those who have written above that Biden's position as stated during the debate is inadequate are completely correct. This isn't going to be fixed by some subtle waltz or complicated triangulation. It will take work, and it will take us being in their faces until we get what is promised to us in the Constitution - equal protection.

    So let's grow a set: organize, tell your friends, hold a rally, and FORCE the candidates to tell us, in a queer forum, why it is they refuse to uphold the law of the land and deny a entire class of citizens the protections that marriage affords. This is about tax breaks, visitation rights, inheritance rights, custody, etc. etc. The only path to true equality is through the application of the same terminology. Language structures perception, and thus "reality," indeed - that is a danger inherent in "civil marriage" or "domestic partnership." But more importantly in the case of marriage - LANGUAGE STRUCTURES THE LAW! Again, the only way to grant equal rights and benefits is through the use of the same terminology. Otherwise, the meaning of "equal" becomes merely subjective and interpretable.

    Furthermore, once a ban on gay marriage is enacted, it sets a precedent to deny others equal protection - this is just as much about protecting non-queer citizens as it is about us.

    Inundate these people's website with questions, write letters, organize meetings, tell your friends, and let's somehow try to pull together to get Obama and/or Biden to address a group of gay people. I want to force them to explain themselves TO US, to our faces. We deserve at least that.

    Posted by: Andalusian Dog | Oct 5, 2008 12:37:46 AM


  25. Umm, remember high school? Presidents don't make laws. Even if Obama says he's for gay marriage, it's not gonna happen any time soon- at the federal level, anyway. The feds don't even have domestic partner benefits yet!

    Posted by: Tom Aloisi | Oct 6, 2008 11:59:41 AM


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