- Posted March 25, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Same-sex marriage hearings: Your thoughts
Could Quest for Equality Split the GOP?
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
No matter the outcome, history will be made over the next two days when the US Supreme Court hears arguments pro and con over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8. Both cases involve equality for same-gender couples in the US of A. The rulings by the Justices are not expected to be known until summer.
The move by same-gender couples seeking equality under the law and state recognition of their long-term unions has been moving slowly for the last 20 years since the issue arose in the Hawaii State Legislature in 1993. However, GLBT citizens have longed for equality for hundreds, even thousands of years.
On this eve of the nation's highest court taking on the issue of equality for all citizens, there are already rumblings in some circles that this may be the death knell of the nation and if not, it could be the issue which will finish killing off the Republican Party. The issue was even part of the "autopsy" released by the Republican National Committee following the monumental loss of the White House over the last two presidential elections.
While the report made mention of the need for the GOP to diversify and become more inclusive, the RNC was not ready to offer an open-hand to GLBT citizens and voters. While 131 prominent, if not necessarily well-known, Republican leaders have signed an amicus brief to the Supremes calling for equality for not just opposite-gender couples, but same-gender couples as well, the party does not seem poised to change its tune any time soon.
This was made evident from the statement by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, that he had not changed his views on "gay marriage" and could not see ever changing his view that marriage was only for a man and a woman. This was said in response to conservative Ohio Senator Rob Portman announcing that he was moving to the camp in support of equality for same-gender couples after revealing his son, Will, was gay. Portman is the highest profile, currently in elected office, Republican to come out in favor of "gay marriage".
Christian Evangelicals, who have since the 1980s formed the base of the GOP, are now threatening to either split from the party if it moves toward acceptance or support for same-gender equality. Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, leaders in the Evangelical movement, have stated as much and also noted that Evangelicals may also sit out elections and not vote.
Recent polls, however, show the issue is not only one between Evangelicals and libertarians, who generally support same-gender equality, but is also divided between generations. Those under 40 in the GOP are overwhelmingly for same-gender equality, while those older are still against extending those benefits to GLBT couples.
The main schism appears to be really over one little word - marriage.
When asked by pollsters, a good majority of Republicans come out in support of equality under the law for all citizens, straight and gay. When pollsters insert marriage into the question, the numbers change.
As I have noted in Shaping the Cornfield Perspective - Where I Stand Politically:
We must ensure that all our citizens are treated equally under the law. No one class or group of individuals or couples should be granted any rights and benefits not afforded to every other group of individuals and couples.
Same-gender relationships should be afforded the benefit of state blessing just as opposite-gender relationships now are. There is no reason to complicate or not allow equality under the law with all the benefits and protections afforded opposite-gender couples over the use of a word on the state license. Best option is that all state licenses use the term civil union on all state documents. Let the couples have a "marriage" privately within the framework of their religious institutions or according to their moral view. All couples, whether same-gender or opposite-gender, should be afforded the same rights and benefits under the law when receiving a license to recognize the joining of the two individuals legally.
Grandfather in all existing marriages, but let all future legally state-recognized couples be solemnized in a civil ceremony conducted by a civil official. Those wishing to still have a "marriage" may do so, without state recognition, in the church of their choice. This would also take the fear out of the equation that providing equality to same-gender couples would impose a legal requirement on pastors and priests to conduct legal ceremonies that run afoul of religious views.
It seems so simple to me.
Would such a compromise, however, be enough to keep the Grand Ole Party from tearing apart?
If the Supreme Court does rule that marriage is a fundamental right of all citizens, both straight and gay, will it result in a revolt and bolting from the GOP by Evangelicals and other socially conservative members?
If the Supreme Court narrows its focus without providing a nationwide definitive ruling, is same-gender equality or gay marriage inevitable with younger people supporting the issue by nearly 80%?
While all of this is playing out, Illinois, Delaware and Rhode Island legislatures are considering junping on board the move to providing marriage to all citizens. A new lawsuit has been filed in New Mexico to force county officials to provide marriage licenses to same-gender couples since a legal paper by one county's attorney pointed out that New Mexico law does not define "marriage" as between only a man and a woman.
All eyes will be focused on Justice Anthony Kennedy Tuesday and Wednesday as the Supreme Court hears the two cases. Kennedy is considered the swing vote on whether same-gender equality will advance or the status quo remains and the issue continue to play out state-by-state.
With this backdrop, the GOP, it seems, has one more issue which it must find an answer and put the party on the winning side. Yet, the answer, the solution, could either put Republicans back in the running for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or permanently sideline the party to minority status.
From the Cornfield, I have been waiting for decades for the issue of equality for GLBT to make its way to the Supreme Court. With anticipation and some anxiety, I am both hopeful and fearful of how the Justices will rule.
In time, however, I do believe that all Americans, whether straight or gay, will find and celebrate equality under the law.