Andrew Sullivan | Polls | Religion | Republican Party

Leaked Republican Memo Advises Quick Evolution On Gay Issues

Rainbow-elephant-1Not sure how this memo leaked, but I'm glad it did. It was dispatched yesterday from the desk Jan van Lohuizen, the respected Republican pollster and founder of Voter Consumer Research, and was destined for the desks of various Republican "insiders" and operatives. Here's the text:

Background: In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

1. Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year.  Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support  accelerated to 5% a year.  The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).

2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time.  The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.

3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians.  These include majority Republican support for:

  1. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
  2. Protections against bullying and harassment
  3. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  4. Right to visit partners in hospitals
  5. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
  6. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:

“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law.  People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians  should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.

Other thoughts / Q&A: 

Follow up to questions about affirmative action: “This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.”

Why public attitudes might be changing: “As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace.   This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.” 

Conservative fundamentals: “As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone.  This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government. 

Andrew Sullivan, writing at The Daily Beast, thinks the memo is a rather big deal. He writes, only a little melodramatically:

The last paragraph is, to my mind, the most remarkable. It's advising Republican candidates to emphasize the conservative nature of gay marriage, to say how it encourages personal responsibility, commitment, stability and family values. It uses Dick Cheney's formula (which was for a couple of years, the motto of this blog) that "freedom means freedom for everyone." And it uses David Cameron's argument that you can be for gay marriage because you are a conservative.

And the walls came tumbling down.


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  1. @Rick
    I think the difference in our position is mainly that I think the laws over time drive attitudes and beliefs and emotional reactions, whereas you believe that legal changes won't produce emotional changes inside of people. I have too many counter examples to believe your way. I hope you hope you are wrong.
    Do you believe that straights are inately homophobic and can't be changed? Because I used to and I don't anymore because of all the evidence I see against it, for what it is worth.
    I wish the people who disagree with you would show you more respect while disagreeing with you because they won't change your opinion that way.

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 12, 2012 6:12:07 PM

  2. When we achieve full equality "Rick" will curl up and die like an autumn leaf.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | May 12, 2012 6:15:07 PM

  3. It's interesting that the memo points out (correctly, in my opinion) that the shift in attitudes does not spring directly from a generational shift, as is so often reported. It's about Americans of all ages changing their minds once they come into contact with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc who are openly gay or lesbian.

    I am generally of the opinion that people should not feel compelled to out themselves (and most certainly should not be outed by others, unless to expose malicious hypocrisy). It's a personal decision that entails many sensitive and complicated considerations. But the observation above is a good reminder for all of us that being openly honest is having the net positive effect (however gradually) of creating a welcoming society that is less likely to relegate us to second class citizenship.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 6:19:48 PM

  4. @Jim: I totally agree, this may very well be a trial balloon.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 6:26:54 PM

  5. @Rick, I got married and it made a WORLD of difference, even as an someone who has to out myself to people constantly, what with my nerdy engineer disguise. Lately I've been doing that by saying stuff like "my husband" during normal conversation, or putting a photo of him on my desk at work. I may not be a CEO, but I'm a sought-after professional who's delivered many products that are household names. I don't even WANT to be a CEO, my ambitions lay in other directions... not everyone shares your alpha male caricature of success. You're just so wrong about social acceptance, and marriage. Everywhere COULD be like Silicon Valley, with gay people at every rank throughout a vibrant industry, and marriage itself is pretty great. Too bad you'll never know how awesome that is, unless you change.

    Posted by: Mousie | May 12, 2012 6:45:21 PM

  6. @Ernie Just as I suspected. You can't do it. And Chris Hughes is an entrepreneur, not someone who had to make his way up through the corporate ladder, with all the potential social pitfalls and political snakepits along the way--where people will use ANYTHING they can (including spreading rumors about someone else's sexuality) to win promotion battles with others. Proving my point.

    (And by the way, given that you are so "out and proud", why did you not tell us what you do for a living? And is Ernie even your real name? Care to tell us what your real name is? In the spirit of being "out and proud", of course)

    Which leads to my response to your comment Nullnaught.....of course, I hope people change.....and no, I don't believe that straight people are inherently homophobic. I believe, in fact, that they are pretty much "over" homosexuality, per se...and I even believe that many, many men, in particular, want the taboo against homosexuality to go away so that they can express themselves more freely with other men, emotionally and sexually, even if for most of them, that would not mean going "full gay."

    I think, as I have expressed before, that what most people don't like is the same thing that I don't like--what young people refer to as "the gay"......and we all know what that is, the aspects of "gay" culture that are offputting to so many and that have nothing to do with sexual orientation per se.....and the fact that young people have such an aversion to it that they have isolated that phrase to express that aversion should give all of you the sense that their embrace of legal equality does not equate to an embrace of "gayness."

    I actually see enormous potential to completely re-make the male culture in such a way that will free all men to express themselves with each other emotionally and sexually and free themselves of the dependence on women that the current culture pushes them towards.....but I don't see that happening as long as sexual and emotional expression with other men is tainted by "the gay" and as long as "the gay" represents a rejection of masculine values and identity rather than an embrace of them

    And that is where the real change needs to take place, both for their sake and for ours.

    @Mouse So let me ask you the same question I asked Ernie. If it is so cool to be gay in Silicon Valley, then why are Tim Cook and other senior executives not out? Maybe some are and I missed it, but if they are, they are not on the "Out 50" list, nor have I read about them in the general or business press, anywhere. Can you explain why?

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 7:19:05 PM

  7. Just for the record, the post by "Rick" above that begins with "It's interesting that the memo points out...." was not from me, the "real" Rick. Those of you who are also using Rick and who don't want to be confused with me might want to add a last initial or something to your name....

    There was nothing in that post that I did not find acceptable, by the way, even though it was not mine (as opposed to the crap Kiwi posts as an impostor).

    Just an FYI

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 7:53:06 PM

  8. The low information voter, AKA your typical Faux News viewer, doesn't do a lot of thinking. They don't like complexity, favoring simplistic, either/or thinking ( e.g., it's right or it's wrong, good or bad, for us or against us, winner or loser). Considering the middle, nuance, smacks to them of moral relativism. Usually authoritarians, they prefer order and structure, the way things always have been. And it is honorable and moral to never change one's mind and remain loyal. It is no accident that Republicans, along with Faux news and its pundits, wrap themselves in the flag, adding "America" whenever possible and harping on values and patriotism. You can get a lot of power by taking advantage of the simple and/or authoritarian mind. That is why courting the base has always been an effective strategy for them.

    Unfortunately, it bites them in the butt when the base gets too much power. The evangelicals and Teabaggers have taken over the asylum.

    There are "smart" (if too individualistic and "me first and always") Republicans who are able to see that gay people are not going away, not "sick," not sinners. This memo will appeal to them. But it will be a hard sell to the base. Yes, if Rush Limbaugh says it, so many would loyally follow that it would make our heads spin. But why would he? He makes quite enough money doing the "wrong" thing. Where is his incentive to do the "right" thing? What's in it for him? To be on the right side of history? He makes his fortune quite nicely just the way things are.

    Posted by: TJ | May 12, 2012 8:10:04 PM

  9. Rick, I don't understand why you care what I do or what my "real" name is. Trust me, it's not secret.

    Anyone who is closeted opens themselves up to blackmail. Open people aren't concerned with rumors that might lose them a promotion. What a life closeted corporate types must lead, quivering in fear, no chance for a real family.

    Like today's Republican party, living in the past, terrified of a future that won't include them. The closet, like the Republican mindset, is going extinct. The trajectory of equality is very clear, and a hidden life just isn't a viable option for any self-respecting person.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 12, 2012 8:57:09 PM

  10. @Rick
    I would argue with idea that young people still use the phrase "the gay," or at least as much as they used to. the change seems to be happening quickly. I think that the attitude behind it is shifting rapidly as well. If you don't believe that, then what are you looking at that makes you believe otherwise?
    I think an enemy of gay people is enforced gender roles. I can't agree with you that embracing femininity is a bad thing for the movement, if that is what you are saying. In the past, I have gotten highly perterbed with staights who wouldn't believe at first that I am gay, because of my looks and demeanor so I don't care for the stereo-type that gays should be effeminate. But I think those trying to suppress that are our real enemies. I don't count you amongst our enemies - because you are gay.
    I think you would be a lot happier if you could reconcile yourself to those in the community who can't pass for straight, because they can't go away and shouldn't be expected to even if you think they hurt your image as a gay man. I don't mean that as an attack, I am just saying if you could, it would be less stressful for you, and I believe you savour more freedom for more people rather than less.

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 12, 2012 10:04:51 PM

  11. Dance, Puppets, Dance!

    Posted by: Caliban | May 12, 2012 10:46:21 PM

  12. ERNIE - How were the onion rings?

    Posted by: TJ | May 12, 2012 11:01:09 PM

  13. Excellent, TJ! And, better yet, the opening of the A&W means spring has truly arrived.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 12, 2012 11:18:33 PM

  14. "But I think those trying to suppress that are our real enemies."

    And that is where you are mistaken. Masculinity is a natural phenomenon--effeminacy among men is totally contrived and unnatural. So it is not about "suppression" but about returning those who have been psychologically damaged to such an extent that they have lost their natural masculinity to a natural state. And doing so would eliminate homophobia, for the most part, whereas nothing else will.

    Those of you who do not understand that simply do not, in my opinion, really understand "straight" men and their culture, which is not surprising, given the more or less absolute social segregation that has long existed between gay men and straight men.

    If you all would start talking to them and trying to understand them instead of taking cues from feminists and other women about "enforced gender roles", then your understanding would improve, but you have to have a true male identity and a sense of shared destiny with other men in order to do identity that most gay men don't really have, at least not in full.

    They are not our "enemies" and their distaste for effeminacy is not due to a fundamental repulsion for homosexuality--it is instead due to an understanding that masculine values matter and need to be understanding that most women also have, but that most gay men sadly seem not to have.

    And that is the core of the problem.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 11:29:38 PM

  15. ERNIE - I adore onion rings. Almost as much, and sometimes more, than KFC. But what's not to love about a mug of root beer! Just thinking about it makes me want to let out a loud belch. If you were not a continent away, I'd suggest we do lunch (ps I wouldn't belch, really. I'd be propah). ;)

    Posted by: TJ | May 12, 2012 11:33:08 PM

  16. "Rick, I don't understand why you care what I do or what my "real" name is. Trust me, it's not secret"

    If it is not a secret, then why don't you say what it is? Aren't you and Kiwi and others always chiding me for being "anonymous" and "closeted"?

    Then put me to shame, right here. Tell us all what your real name is and what your occupation is and how that provides you with the perspective that legitimizes your sitting in judgment of people in the corporate world or in other areas of society and scolding them for their closetedness (which of course has nothing at all to do with jealous resentment on your part).

    "The trajectory of equality is very clear, and a hidden life just isn't a viable option for any self-respecting person."

    Then why are you hiding YOUR identity? You are "out and proud" right? And are willing to stand by everything you post, right? So tell us who you are.....

    The floor is all yours.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 11:41:27 PM

  17. A quick mind would figure out how I know about onion rings and A&W rootbeer. But that's probably the stumbling block here.

    Posted by: TJ | May 13, 2012 12:11:03 AM

  18. Lord knows, Raymond would have figured it out, crafty little Canuck that he is.

    Posted by: TJ | May 13, 2012 12:12:51 AM

  19. You say that effeminacy in males is contrived and unnatural. Well, I am not sure I agree with that. I did have a boyfriend once who was effeminate and a transvestite as well. The day I met him he was acting "Butch." I don't know if that meant he was "being himself" on that day and thus contriving his behaviour the rest of the time or if he was being what society expected him to be at the time I met him and was "being himself" when he was being effeminate. I respect his effeminacy either way because even if it is contrived, then he was living his life as performance art is how I would put it.
    His behaviour may hurt the community as a whole because it irritates straight people, and I don't think it does, but even if it does, does it so much that anyone need stomp on his freedom of expression? Do you think it hurts the image of gays in general so much that masculine gays could never be accepted? If not, don't effeminate gays just hurt themselves and not you?

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 13, 2012 12:38:38 AM

  20. The above is @Rick

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 13, 2012 12:39:55 AM

  21. RICK - I have said before and wish to repeat that there are many effeminate men who are naturally so, truly, they just don't seem to have the joints and bones that most men have, yet they are as gravely human and rich in character as anyone else. It's true that they can make me cringe a little yet I feel great compassion is due them for the discrimination they often experience. They deserve our respect.
    The affected, fruity, show-off kinds with their cheezy performance videos which we see far too often on this site are another matter altogether. They spoil our name as gay men. I am ashamed of them and the homophobia they elicit.

    Generally I appreciate your fighting spirit for the natural and sweet maniliness of most men, gay or straight, and in fact, as I hope is true for you, experience it all the time among my male friends regardless of their orientation.

    Posted by: UFFDA | May 13, 2012 3:21:06 AM

  22. This is an amazing time to be alive. One minute, I think our nation is careening toward some 21st century form of Civil War (did anyone see the parallels between the President's speech and the Emancipation Proclimation?) and the next minute I'm thinking November is a long way off (even now) and so much can happen. Fasten your seatbelts folks, this is gonna be one hell of a wild ride. No clue whether I'll like how it ends, but you can't say these are boring times.

    Posted by: NiceRed | May 13, 2012 3:40:06 AM

  23. Republicans can read the polls just as well as Obama and some of them have come to the same conclusion.

    Their problem, and it's a 500 pound gorilla problem, is that they don't lie nearly as well as Democrats.

    Economic issues are the key question in this election, and bigotry, even for bigots, ranks near the bottom compared to mass, long term unemployment, an economy circling the drain and the likelihood of a deepening Depression.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue | May 13, 2012 4:31:42 AM

  24. Oh, and RICK, don't mind ATOMIC, he's a hag, one of those who pretend to have a boyfriend (shudder) to disguise the fact that he couldn't get a cretin to love him. He and KIWI tried to make it one time but got their fangs stuck in one another's gums. I'm always amused by his little tantrums, "I'm smart and dangerous" he says with stamping feet and thrashing curls. So scary.

    Posted by: UFFDA | May 13, 2012 8:56:00 AM

  25. OK, Rick, you caught me, smarty pants. My name isn't Ernie and I'm homeless. You can feel good about yourself.

    Now that your sleuthing has been successful, shall we stick to issues?

    Root beer date anytime, TJ-- that is, if I really drink root beer ;-)

    Posted by: Ernie | May 13, 2012 9:29:04 AM

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