Publisher’s Perspective: Mid-term migraine

By : Tom Dyer
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TomDyerHeadshotThank goodness for Tivo. Otherwise, television for the past month or so would have been unwatchable. Negative political ads permeate the airwaves, and the endless references to “Obamacare,” “Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda,” and unethical or criminal conduct that is “wrong for Florida” are downright oppressive.

The accompanying imagery is frightening—perfect for Halloween. The candidate being criticized is always pictured in menacing high contrast black-and-white. Then the commercial switches to color, like Dorothy entering Munchkinland, and we see a warm, smiling face.

“I’m Glinda, and I approved this message.”

So thank goodness for Tivo. If there’s a show you want to watch immediately, all you have to do is record it and delay playback for a few minutes. Then you can fast forward during commercials and delight as horrifying candidate faces fly by too quickly to affect your mood.

I’m probably like most voters: I can’t fathom how these ads could possibly have any effect, or what those who see things differently than me could possibly be thinking.

Pundits predict a Republican tsunami on Nov. 2 that will once again make them the majority party in the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate. Yet just two years ago, after a decade of Republican governance, we were on the brink of economic meltdown. And what do GOP candidates offer today? The same tax cuts and deregulation that got us there in the first place.

Meanwhile, Democrats kept a recession from turning into a depression, passed regulations that address at least some of the predatory and opportunistic financial practices that were so disastrous, got us out of one war and worked to limit the other, and tackled an unsustainable health care system—a huge problem that Republicans repeatedly kicked down the road.

Now, because the federal deficit is huge and unemployment hovers at a could-be-much-worse ten percent, Democrats are being blamed. And angry Tea Party candidates are convinced they have the solution. I’m not optimistic.

But as a gay man, it’s difficult not to feel encouraged by recent developments. Despite the anticipated political boomerang turn to the right, LGBT equality now appears to be on a solid progressive trajectory.

Thank goodness for the courts.

The right obsesses about activist judges, but our nation has a proud and positive history of civil rights rulings that precede popular and legislative will. Two striking examples come to mind.

In the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared segregation in schools to be a violation of the equal protection clause of the constitution. Southern states resisted violently and would clearly not have approved integration for decades to come, if then. But in time, and under court order, the moral and practical benefits of integration became apparent. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act 10 years later, in 1964.

In Loving v. Virginia in 1967, the Supremes overturned the felony conviction of an interracial couple that had violated Virginia’s “Racial Integrity Act of 1924” by… falling in love and getting married. Again, the fear-based reaction in the south was emotional, and there was a call for activist judges to be impeached. But the case redefined race relations and the meaning of marriage and family. A unanimous court wrote that, “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence.”

Just three years ago, Mildred Loving revisited that decision in the context of same-sex marriage.

“I am proud that my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people—black or white, young or old, gay or straight—seek in life,” Loving said. “Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. I support the freedom to marry for all.”
Today it’s hard to imagine a different result in either case, and few would wish it so.

In time, the same may be said for U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s bold ruling this summer that California’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The case is now percolating through the federal court system and will likely end up with the Supremes, where many count the needed five votes for our side. Just as with integration and interracial marriage, in one day same-sex marriage would go from unthinkable to undeniable. A decade later it will be uninteresting.

The same will almost certainly be true for gay service in the military. Last month, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional. In contrast to same-sex marriage, however, a Democrat-controlled Congress seems in alignment.

Most exciting in Florida is the holding by the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeals that the state’s blanket ban on adoption by homosexuals is unconstitutional. The decision, along with a politically-timed endorsement by Gov. Charlie Crist, appears to have consigned the three decades-old law to the history books. In this case, the court brought state adoption law into alignment with public opinion—except for our embarrassingly retrograde Republican legislature.

One summer, three court decisions, three giant steps toward full equality.

I may survive the mid-term elections yet.

And if not, I still have Tivo.

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