Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale

"We don't always endorse liberal Democrats, but when we do, it's because gays."


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All We Know of Heaven: A Requiem for NOM

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We don't always endorse liberal Democrats, but when we do, it's because gays."

“We don’t always endorse liberal Democrats, but when we do, it’s because gays.”

It wasn’t so long ago when indefatigably engaged political outfits like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) or Family Research Council (FRC) could drive (in modern Politico speak) vital conversations from the Bible Belt to the nation’s capital. Nowadays, as the country slips away from their hostility to same-sex marriage, such avowedly socially conservative groups find their influence even in the Republican Party to be limited and declining.

In such a situation, one might expect serious conservatives to proactively complement or even spearhead GOP attempts to expand the electoral coalition that supports the conservative movement. After all, we owe it to our philosophy to study how to win, and a broad Republican coalition—featuring such diverse voices as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Mitt Romney, Milton Wolf, American Crossroads, Tea Party Express, and the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans and American Unity Fund—is campaigning hard for Republican candidates with whom they assuredly do not agree on every issue. Unfortunately, NOM has opted instead for reactionary spoilage by endorsing the very congressional Democrats who would empower Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda.

While conservatives are out working to expand Republican control of the House of Representatives and win control of the Senate, NOM is launching all-out political warfare against gay Republican candidates Richard Tisei of Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio of California. This scorched-earth belligerence represents an escalation from earlier in the cycle, when NOM joined FRC in expressing opposition to the gay Republicans (including an odd attack on DeMaio’s support for the Second Amendment based on his desire to “improve enforcement for background checks and to keep weapons out of the hands of those with serious mental health issues and criminal history”—a position concordant with the NRA) but stopped short of endorsing their liberal opponents.

To be sure, the official reasons given for the active belligerence are rooted in the candidates’ support for same-sex marriage, but this reasoning is belied by the evidence.

As anybody who is passionate about the marriage issue ought to know, Tisei and DeMaio are not the only Republican candidates who support issuing civil marriage licenses to committed same-sex couples. Current Republican challengers and incumbents for congressional office who support same-sex marriage include Carlos Curbelo, David Jolly, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Susan Collins, and Charlie Dent. Even if we narrowly restrict the discussion only to non-incumbent Republicans in competitive races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, there remains no explanation for why NOM is ignoring my fellow Florida native Carlos Curbelo—who has been endorsed by pro-gay Republicans for his support for same-sex marriage—for holding essentially identical positions on marriage as his fellow challengers in Massachusetts and California.

Of course, there is a simple explanation for why NOM is singling out Tisei and DeMaio. Although they are not alone among Republicans in their support for gay rights, Tisei and DeMaio are the only Republican congressional candidates this cycle who are openly gay. That NOM is willing to endorse liberal Democrats against more conservative candidates only in a desperate attempt to defeat gay Republicans speaks volumes about the organization’s—and its supporters’—hostility to gay Americans and willingness to throw the conservative movement under the bus in the pursuit of that animus. That NOM seems unwilling to admit openly what is blatantly obvious upon inspection suggests even the hardened heart of Benedict Arnold may recognize the enormity of this social and political wrong.

It is a terrible shame to realize that an organization familiar to many on the Right is blatantly and enthusiastically discriminating against gay people—a position opposed everywhere from Christian traditionalists to the Mormon Church to Rick Santorum. It is downright infuriating to recall that NOM has been welcome at conservative gatherings like CPAC, even while those gatherings repeatedly exclude pro-gay Republican groups—like the Log Cabin Republicans—that consistently campaign to defeat, rather than elect, liberal Democrats.

NOM could have stayed neutral in Tisei’s and DeMaio’s races, as it is apparently doing in Curbelo’s and the others I mentioned. The Heritage Foundation, RedState, and other socially conservative outfits almost assuredly share NOM’s objections to the marriage positions of all three candidates (and others), but they appear to be focusing their energies on supporting the candidates and policies they agree with, rather than shooting at fellow Republicans in invidious contempt for Reagan’s 11th commandment. This article isn’t about the folks in organizations like Heritage or RedState—with whom I of course profoundly disagree—it is about the unholy union of NOM and the janissaries of the imperial Obama-Pelosi agenda.

As I’ve said before, it’s vital that we keep social conservatives in the Republican coalition, even and especially as the same-sex marriage question fades like dust in the wind. It’s also vital to include the growing majority of young Republicans (let alone winnable independents) who even Heritage obliquely acknowledges are turned off by divisive mean-spiritedness against gay people. From what I can see, a good many social conservatives, even those who disagree on civil marriage policy, are eager or at least willing to accept gay Republicans and civil marriage dissenters into the GOP big tent.

This article is not about reasonable conservatives of good will who still have political differences to hash out. This article is about NOM and the priorities of those for whom gays and Republicans are as men and lions.

Notwithstanding my objections to NOM’s vituperative treachery against American conservatism, I am profoundly grateful that they have shown us their true colors.  When the chips are down, and the time comes for conservatives to unite for the good of the country, we all now know that NOM cannot be trusted to oppose the political enablers of the deranged fever dreams of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Those so-called social “conservatives” would rather smear and fight against gay Americans than support the broad spectrum of conservative principles that unite us all behind a common banner.

Perhaps this parting is all we need of the culture wars.

Now remember to vote!


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Sexual Politics in the Grand Old Dominion

“The only question is, whose vision of moral rectitude does it reflect?” –Bishop E.W. Jackson

How could this guy not appeal to Democrats and swing voters?

There are several different narratives percolating on the intersection between religious faith and homosexuality in America.

We have 61 percent of the Boy Scouts voting to drop both a ban on gay scouts and an institutional condemnation of homosexuality. This is particularly interesting in that the largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts—ahead of the United Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Southern Baptist congregations—is the Mormon Church. Not only did the Latter-Day Saints support the change, but their church has been pointedly moving away from the gay front of the culture wars toward a more libertarian consensus on the role of government and institutions in private life.

From Ralph Hallow in The Washington Times:

“The behind-the-scenes effectiveness of the Mormon Church, which sponsors more than a third of all Scout troops in America, is becoming more visible and appears to be nudging the GOP a bit toward a more libertarian stand on some social and cultural issues. Up to a point, Mormons and evangelicals think that the more libertarian the nation’s political center of gravity, the lower the risk of government meddling in religious matters.

But overall, it’s Mormonism that may be on the ascendancy. The nation’s best-known Mormon politician — Mitt Romney — unequivocally endorsed gay equality in Scouting in 1994, long before his 2012 presidential race.”

Representing a different set of priorities, we have legacy scout alum and RedState editor Erick Erickson announcing his acceptance of the Boy Scouts’ decision and rejection of further involvement from his family with the institution. As Erickson puts it, it’s fine to welcome gay people—and he has gay friends!—but it must be maintained that gay behavior, which presumably includes those committed, monogamous relationships that some call love, is sinful. Eve Tushnet, a gay Catholic and a friend-of-friends from Yale, would agree. This position on gay love is, blessedly, a minority and declining view in America, but we have little reason to believe it will die quietly.

And then there are people like Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., the Republican Party of Virginia’s convention-chosen candidate for lieutenant governor. Jackson’s contribution to the discussion: LGBT people make him “feel ikky all over.” That is among his least objectionable statements. (We are supposed to be comforted by the fact that “he wouldn’t support any sort of ban on gay sex”—not that Lawrence v. Texas is constitutional precedent or anything.) Of course, he also spends his free time promoting discrimination against Muslim Americans (because obviously most of them are, like, terrorists and stuff) and warning people about the dangers of Satanic possession inherent in yoga.

As a conservative with libertarian leanings, I’m an independent at heart. I’m willing to entertain diverging views even on such sacred cows as gun control (use both hands and stand your ground) and the freedom to marry (Yes). I do have friends and family who oppose me on either and other positions, and I have and will support and vote for candidates who disagree with me on major issues if I am persuaded that their overall vision is superior to that of their opponent.

So I would vote for Chris Christie were I a New Jersey voter, despite lip-curling disdain for his positions on gun rights, pork-free relief bills, and gay marriage (which is as benign—if still annoying—as opposition can get), and against a Democrat whose policies would be great for gay rights (i.e., extending the invaluable word, “marriage”) but otherwise abhorrent. Likewise, I would support Mark Kirk in Illinois, despite his unsettling antipathy to gun rights, for essentially the same reasons unabashedly gun-grabbing progressives would support Brian Schweitzer over a Republican in Montana. That said, I would probably support neither (as first, second, or even third choices) in a Republican presidential primary, which would presumably be full of better (overall) options.

But however certain I may be that the progressive vision of America should be regarded as a call to arms against the equalizing asphyxiation of a prosperous civilization, there are bridges too far in that fight. With Jackson, even in areas where we agree, he manages to make me uncomfortable. For instance, I would find it difficult to support at-will abortion (i.e., pregnancies terminated for reasons other than rape, incest, or health considerations). However, I must draw a line well before comparing Planned Parenthood—which, in many cases is the only viable non-abortion health option for poor women—to the KKK. I also agree that liberal policies are disastrous for minorities (and most people), but I don’t see how expressing unmitigated contempt for minority voters wins any converts.

So to put it bluntly: I am not terribly inclined to support E.W. Jackson. (Yes, I suppose there may be worse options, but I am a zealous opponent of invoking Godwin’s Law.) That is not to say I will vote for the Democrat rather than just skip that race altogether, but barring a sudden and convincing change of heart from Jackson, the Virginia lieutenant governorship is all but certainly the Left’s race to lose. These things do happen when party bosses opt for conventions over primaries so as to limit the input of voters—the same voters who will decide the general election.

Fortunately, my political and moral revulsion toward Jackson has not yet translated into opposition to GOP gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. To be sure, I have qualms with Cuccinelli—not the least of which his opposition to Gov. McDonnell’s bipartisan transportation bill and less-than-enthusiastic regard for workforce protections for LGBT employees—but I will allow his campaign to convince me that his governance will hold the pragmatic conservative line set by his predecessor. Besides, the prospect of a Democratic Party hack like Terry McAuliffe as Governor of the Commonwealth is downright unconscionable.

We all have to compromise somewhere.

For some closing thoughts, allow me to make a general point on sexual politics that pertains to Erickson and Tushnet as much as to Jackson and other Virginia Republicans like Robert G. Marshall. The sexual revolution is over. In fact, it was so long ago settled that before I was ever dreamt of, my parents grew up in a world where birth control, casual sex, and divorce were already culturally ingrained, and gay relatives and friends were already finding the precursors of modern acceptance. It is all well and good for the holdouts of the erstwhile “Moral Majority” to solemnly distinguish their values from the philosophical incoherence of the Boy Scouts on the one hand and the rabid bigotry of E.W. Jackson on the other. However, that is a conversation that no longer has any more resonance in 2013—when 72 percent of Americans believe gay marriage will happen eventually—than a debate over the validity of absentee voting.

Accordingly, the conversation ahead of 2016 is whether and how potential Republican presidential nominees will downplay any opposition to gay marriage. I fully expect influential contingents of the conservative base to demand full-throated opposition to gay rights, and I suspect they will get some bone or other (e.g. nominal but express opposition to the freedom to marry). I also expect a growing mainstream contingent of pro-gay Republican and Independent voters will be unusually eager to kick that bone away in the face of popular Democratic grandstanding for gay rights.

This tension is not sustainable. Conservatives, as a movement, will have to learn to articulate a set of values that is inclusive to gay Americans—and the voters who support them. Otherwise, the Republican Party, along with the values of strong families and free enterprise it espouses, will buckle under the weight of escalating political liabilities like an aging welfare state over an overtaxed population.

Whatever happens in Virginia this November, the need to relate timeless values to evolving cultural trends will continue.


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The Court of Marriage

Update: This post was adapted by The Daily Caller. You can find that article here.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” –Abraham Lincoln

What is love? Oh baby, don’t judge me – don’t judge me! – no more…

Long ago, in a world where Andrew Sullivan was still hauntingly conservative, there were supporters of gay Americans who disdained the push for gay marriage. On the one hand, scions of wilted flower power thought the institution as irredeemably alien to the gay identity as a Whole Foods Market in a quaint Southern town. On the other hand, some liberal activists thought it a distraction from more pressing concerns such as bullying, antidiscrimination policy, poverty, health care, and a broader fight for “social justice”.

Now, on the eve of 2013 (assuming the world outlasts the solstice), gay marriage supporters have swept four electoral contests, and the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear cases in which gay marriage proponents have been so far undefeated. It seems history has accelerated into overdrive.

What should we make of all this?

For his part, Sullivan wrestles with the overriding conviction that gay marriage is right and SCOTUS should acknowledge it thus against the persistently cautious impulse that judicial overreach might undercut the triumph of a cause to which he and others have dedicated decades of their lives. I’m inclined to agree with Sullivan (pause a minute: you won’t see those words very often) and Jonathan Rauch in hoping and expecting that the High Court will narrowly affirm the California ruling and strike down all or part of the Defense of Marriage Act without finding (or denying) a broad national right to gay marriage. But whatever my opinion, a broad ruling that nationalizes gay marriage is not unthinkable. In any case, recognition of gay marriage will expand in coming years, and we should contemplate (political) life beyond today’s vanishing opposition.

Before anybody cries, “judicial activism,” let’s acknowledge something critical. Some ebb and flow notwithstanding, the tide will never return this ship to port in any generation. It took three decades—longer than most of my generation has existed—after Loving v. Virginia before a majority of all Americans supported interracial marriage. Without any comparable ruling from on high, and despite much public opposition, majority support for gay marriage has come in about half the time. If my peers grow—as I hope—rightward as they age, it will manifest in their endearingly nagging interest in their gay friends’ settling down in loving, committed families. So even if the final ruling is broad, any backlash that emerges will be fleeting. There will never be a marriage amendment, but there may be many policy fights and elections lost—with nothing gained in return—should enough Republicans insist on beating a decomposed horse.

Whatever path the Supreme Court takes, the challenge to conservatives is to figure how to proactively incorporate the evolving consensus into our wholesome, freedom-in-values-minded vision for America. We appeal to small business owners without dismissing workers through free markets, responsible regulation, and pro-growth governance. We appeal to parents without ignoring the childless by emphasizing digital-age education, efficient public policy, and reasonable taxes. We appeal to lower-income voters without alienating the middle class (or vice versa) in demonstrating the necessity of a self-undermining safety net and an economic climate conducive to jobs. We can appeal to a gay-friendly young and multicultural America without rejecting traditionalists through an inclusive focus on family values that has long defined the conservative ethos.

The time of the politics of “anti” is past. Heretofore, the GOP has been caricatured and dismissed as anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-black, anti-women, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-intellectual, and uniquely extreme. That many conservatives find this characterization unfair is beside the point. Many people we need to win over tend to think this way, however much we protest. So we must address and defeat the cartoon villain ascribed to us before we can substantively expand our coalition. Today, gay and straight Americans increasingly associate opposition to gay marriage—and by extension, conservatism—with the distasteful animus of James Dobson rather than the gay-affirming reticence of David Blankenhorn. Whatever the courts, voters, or various lawmakers do—or don’t do—in the next couple years, it is incumbent upon those invested in the success of conservatism to disentangle from this flaming mess.

If various elements of the Republican Party are not yet willing to overcome all reservations to gay marriage, then present some semblance of a position that can be defended in modern America. At a bare minimum, promote humane laws—e.g. automatic inheritance, hospital visitation, antidiscrimination protections, partner benefits, and joint-filing—that enhance communal stability while definitively affirming the dignity of gay unions. Along the way, it will be worth remembering that what we allow in the law—from divorce to contraception to alcohol to rooting against the Southeastern Conference—need not accord with what we expect from the pulpit.

We live in an America where a Marine officer proposing to his boyfriend in the White House—to national applause—is the new normal. This couple should be right at home in the Republican Party of tomorrow, if we are willing to lay down the welcome mat and invite our patriots into the big tent.

Are we willing and able, conservatives?


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The Grand New Republic

Update: This post was adapted by The Daily Caller. You can find that article here.

“What’s happened with the Republicans is they are, the Republican Party, is a ‘Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ America. And it just doesn’t fit anymore.” –Matthew Dowd

“We’ve lost the country.” –Rush Limbaugh

Some voters just want to watch the world burn.

Watching Fox News on the day after the election, you saw a fascinating dynamic at play. A number of pundits spoke sympathetically of amnesty and openly criticized Arizona SB 1070 amid discussion of how to appeal to the growing Hispanic population. The O’Reilly Factor featured the unflinching admonition “to stop this Bible-based bashing of gay people,” while other segments noted the unprecedented 4 for 4 sweep gay marriage advocates won at the ballot box. The telling sentiment of the day, however, was that conservatives cannot and will not compromise on principles. So where do we go from here?

For starters, we must recognize the historic nature of this election. Barack Obama won reelection despite disastrous unemployment and a dubious economic outlook. (We’ll set aside the matter of the murdered U.S. ambassador.) Decisive electoral failure under such extraordinary circumstances, even as the country overall shifted right, certainly merits some existential panic, despite modest gubernatorial gains and a reelected House majority. But whether you think the president won without a mandate by small and divisive tactics or prevailed largely on the rote inertia of incumbency, he undeniably did so while playing heavily to the demographic strengths of the Democratic coalition—women, Latinos, blacks, millennials, gays—and everybody knows that everybody knows this.

Somewhere along the way, the Party of Lincoln became, in the eyes of an ever growing segment of America, the Party of Aging, White (Straight), Embittered Men given to fits of delusion. There are many ways, reasons, and heated denials about how this happened, but in the end, Mitt Romney lost, Barack Obama will have his second term, and the Democratic majority in the Senate will grow, as will its presence in the House. Speaking of the incoming Congress, white men will make up less than half of the House Democratic caucus for the first time in history. But for all the rekindled talk of the perpetual dominance of the jackass, even the largest political majorities are, in the grander scheme, fleeting. Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas were solidly blue in the 90s. Now they are deep red. Maine voted down gay marriage in 2009 and voted it up in 2012.

Assuming you noticed the tagline on my blog or on Twitter, you may have wondered how I could feel comfortable being Republican. After all, only 6% of blacks voted for Romney, and the GOP is understandably anathema to many gay Americans and their disproportionately young and professional allies. But I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t expect the Party to look as it does now in ten years, or even by 2016. For one, there are many tough but necessary choices ahead that will strain the special-interest-driven coalition of the Left, whatever happens with white voters, and anything is possible over the next two to four years.

The conservative movement and its values of liberty, discipline, personal responsibility, virtue, family, community, duty, and free enterprise are objectively superior to the creeping statism and obdurate collectivism of the Left. The setback of this election notwithstanding, conservatism is far from dead or even moribund. It is merely in the process of doing what all successful life does—namely, to quote the president, evolving. The matter of adjusting tone and approach to such hot-button issues as immigration, abortion, and gay equality is not one of abandoning core principles. Rather, the project before the Party of Ronald Reagan and Condoleezza Rice is to apply those values to new circumstances and new audiences.

To this end, Republican willingness to engage on comprehensive immigration reform is a great start. While Marco Rubio may or may not appeal to Hispanics outside Florida, prominent Southwestern Republicans—e.g. Sandoval, Martinez, and Cruz—are well positioned to bring diversity into the conservative electorate. I doubt embracing open borders would win the Latino vote for the GOP. However, many conservatively inclined Latino voters may be more receptive when not worrying, fairly or not, that “driving while brown” will warrant harassment under Republican governance.

The question of gays is about much more than 5% of the electorate. Young Americans, including many young Republicans, overwhelmingly understand that gay families are valid American families of people who just want to live their lives and participate in their communities like anyone else. We live in a world where voters in West Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, and both Dakotas elected gay legislators at various levels of government and where Wisconsin sent the first openly gay U.S. Senator to Washington. (Did I mention that voters just approved gay marriage in three states and defeated a constitutional ban in another?)

Put bluntly, a movement identified with and defined by opposition to anti-bullying measures, anti-discrimination laws, gay couples adopting, and, yes, same-sex marriage, will bear witness to the leftward drift of millennials toward the political event horizon of liberalism—and the world will suffer accordingly. Fortunately, once these things are accomplished, they will cease to be issues, and gay families and the people who love them can focus on other things. In the meantime, for the good of the country and everybody who loves her, it’s time for opponents of gay rights to move on.

And so we come to abortion. Many millions of Americans, particularly among Republicans, identify as pro-life. There is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, I suspect we’re moving toward a national consensus on reasonable limits to abortion that vary somewhat by state. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not lose once safe GOP Senate seats because they were pro-life. They lost because they were inanely self-indulgent purists who found a mawkish virtue in needlessly alienating most of the electorate. In so doing, they have achieved nothing beyond setting back the causes of restricting abortion and promoting conservative government by feeding into a tendentious narrative of a conservative “war on women.”

You should not interpret any of this as a move to eject anyone from the coalition or spark a Republican civil war. The voices and contributions of social conservatives will remain prominent and valuable. The focus on family values translates into policies that aim to benefit communities, such as school choice and more local control of education. Upon the rock of piety conservatives build institutions that provide education and social services to millions. For the sake of stewardship, Republicans of all stripes devote their resources to sound fiscal policy and good governance. Concern for life promotes charity and community service that change lives around the world.

The Republican Party, like America, is designed for the inclusion of the big tent. Our core principles are not tied to race, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. They are divined from the foundation of a diverse republic whose self-understanding is rendered, “Out of Many, One”. As I’ve noted before, the Party of Frederick Douglass, Calvin Coolidge, Oscar de Priest, and Barry Goldwater will continue to produce and hone partisans of free enterprise and limited government for as long as the American people seek prosperity. And we will welcome all comers.

As a certain young Republican congressman and vice presidential hopeful once said:

“If you believe in freedom, liberty, self-determination, free enterprise, I don’t care if you’re a Muslim, Jewish, Agnostic, Christian, gay, straight, Latino, black, white, Irish, whatever. Join us.”


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The Gay Republic

“President Obama promised to…heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” –Mitt Romney

Gays want balconies now, too? Next thing you know, they’ll want dignity, respect, and to vote Republican!

Social issues are not merely wedge issues. The casualties of the culture wars are the broken families destroyed by failed policy and left to wilt in ruined American homes. These cultural struggles are deeply personal for those invested, and refusing to reckon with how much real people stand to lose when politicians make bad social policy is essentially punting the long game to claim what is, at best, an evanescent victory and, at worst, a Pyrrhic loss. Families in pain still vote, and they get angrier and more focused the more they’re wronged.

It is the armor of this knowledge that underscores the push to promote Todd Akin as the symbol of a Party that would enslave the wombs of American women to the rapacious whims of strangers. That Governor Romney has disavowed this position is an inconvenient aside to be overlooked. This knowledge also fuels the simmering debate over the fate of gay Americans after January 20, 2013. A recent salvo from the Huffington Post listed five reasons gay American should be terrified of a Romney presidency. So let’s evaluate the claims.

1. Romney is adamantly against same-sex marriage

Not to belabor a zombie horse, but this was true of the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008. The question now, as in 2008, isn’t really about what marriage positions a candidate professes. Rather, it’s about how much we should weigh that position against the total package a candidate offers. It is profoundly unlikely that a viable marriage bill of any kind will emerge in the next term, and even Obama isn’t calling for federally enacted marriage equality.

More to the point, any bills that manage to survive a Senate filibuster and a tumultuous House will almost certainly earn the president’s signature, whoever that president is. Romney is a pragmatist; if his campaign is any indication, he will not squander political capital just to screw over gay people or anybody else. To put it bluntly, this election is not about gay marriage, and to pretend otherwise is to jeopardize the future of America for a leprechaun hiding in a rainbow.

2. Romney’s a flip flopper on LGBT issues – Romney publicly supported LGBT rights in his 1994 campaigning for Senator against Ted Kennedy but…Over the past decade, though, he’s moved to the opposite side of the fence and vehemently opposes LGBT rights on many fronts in this current campaign.

This point is, at best, an exaggeration, at worst, a tendentious bit of flailing. Romney has consistently stood by his support for limited domestic partnerships. This is why he opposed the broadly restrictive no-gay-unions-period Massachusetts marriage amendment—even when the Democratic Speaker of the House and Romney’s own wife and son supported it—but not the narrower don’t-call-it-marriage federal one. More importantly, Romney never said he would be more liberal than Ted Kennedy on gay rights. What he promised to be was more effective in pursuing equality for LGBT Americans. His actual words were:

“There’s something to be said for having a Republican who supports civil rights in this broader context, including sexual orientation. When Ted Kennedy speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as an extremist. When Mitt Romney speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as a centrist and a moderate. It’s a little like if Eugene McCarthy was arguing in favor of recognizing China, people would have called him a nut. But when Richard Nixon does it, it becomes reasonable. When Ted says it, it’s extreme; when I say it, it’s mainstream. I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party, and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.”

This point remains broadly true today. Marriage equality would not exist in New York without the Republican State Senate bringing it up for a vote and four Republican state senators voting for its passage. Likewise, gay marriage would have been annulled in New Hampshire but for the hundred or so Republicans voting against repeal. And let’s not forget the Republicans who helped push DADT repeal over the top.

It will not be possible to achieve LGBT equality nationally without conservative support. Although he has not pressed the point lately, Mitt Romney remains committed to that support, and his position as head of the Republican Party arguably gives leverage and cover to Congressional Republicans who believe “dignity and respect” have political content.

3. Romney reportedly bullied gay classmates in high school

Wait, are you serious? We’re judging candidates for President of the United States based on incidents from high school? And you wonder why all this all this nonsense over Obama’s time at Columbia. If high school is relevant, college certainly is—you’re at least a legal adult in college. But in case it helps, Romney apologized. Now let’s move on.

4. Mitt has opposed LGBT inclusion on hate crime legislation – Mitt Romney vetoed a bill funding hate crimes prevention during his tenure as governor in Massachusetts in 2003. In fact, he cut all funds to hate crime prevention after taking gubernatorial office, which forced an anti-bullying focused Take Force to let its entire staff go. The group remains disbanded.

It’s unclear what actually transpired in this case. The only source is a Wikipedia article citing dead links. It may be referring to Gov. Romney’s disbanding The Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth in 2006. However, that was tied to the legislature creating the functionally equivalent Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth. The commission has addressed bullying. In any case, a President Romney won’t overturn the Matthew Shepard Act, and his administration will prosecute crimes committed against LGBT people.

5. Romney doesn’t support same-sex parent adoption – The man with a large family – five children and 18 grandchildren – believes in denying children with no parents the chance to have a [dual]-guardian loving home if the two happen to be of the same sex. After accidentally mildly supporting same-sex parent adoption rights back in May, he retracted his statement and said, “I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one.” Back in 2006, Romney filed a bill in Massachusetts which allowed Catholic Charities’ adoption policies to overtly exclude same-sex couples.

This is actually two points: adoption and religious liberty. Adoption laws vary messily across the country, and it’s unclear what either president would do about this. Romney’s apparent waffling is not opposition. Moreover, his refusal to campaign against Obama’s support for marriage equality is curiously reminiscent of Obama’s refusal to actually oppose gay marriage while purportedly not believing in it before this year. Granted, Romney is no Obama. But behind the conflicting accusations of pandering, flip-flopping, and extremism is the reality of a pragmatic conservative who is playing the long game. Many staunch Republicans are broadly retreating from or outright opposing anti-gay policy, and a majority of Americans support gay unions. The pragmatist unwilling to make a campaign issue of gay marriage will not channel Tony Perkins in office with the Family Research Council well on the path to irrelevance.

To the second point, the state is not always obliged to accommodate religion, but it is not unreasonable for it to do so. You can believe in access to contraception without demanding a church violate its magisterium to provide it. You can believe a woman has the right to abortion without requiring that her bishop—or our government—foot the bill. And you can believe gay Americans have the right to marry and adopt without compelling the Holy See to blink. It does not follow from trying to compromise with Catholic charities—and thus keep them from closing—that Romney opposes gays adopting any more than tax exemptions for Scientology entail state endorsement of L. Ron Hubbard.

What matters in this election is that the president has failed. Unemployment is unyielding, entitlements court insolvency, the debt devours our inheritance, and all the administration has for us are tax returns and ad hominem. The Obama campaign has become a national analog to Ned Lamont, circa 2006—the Miltonian apotheosis of a monomaniacal fetish for being in opposition to the opponent. If that hackneyed approach couldn’t win in Connecticut for a Democratic nominee, what will it mean if we endorse it for the incumbent President of the United States?

The future is dim for any cause put in chains aboard a sinking ship. In a perfect world, Mitt Romney would be a perfect champion for equality. But as with Barack Obama in 2008, we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I want to get married someday and maybe have kids, but first my loved ones and I need steady jobs and a functional economy. We’ve weathered four years of billowing hope. Now it’s time for some change.