On February 22 in Wyoming, two straight Republican state representatives stood before a legislative committee that was debating a proposed bill that would have invalidated same-sex marriages and civil unions legalized in other states. Although not committee members, Pat Childers and Dan Zwonitzer spoke in an open hearing to oppose the bill, which subsequently died in committee, 7–6.
It's not been often you've seen Republicans doing these sorts of things, but it's more common today than just three years ago, and it will become increasingly so -- because standing against anti-gay bigotry isn't just a "liberal" or "tolerant" position, but a mainstream American position.
For years, Democrats have insisted that tepid opposition to the worst anti-gay bills (and ignoring those "doomed to pass" in states like Missouri and Tennessee) was "the way forward." John Kerry even endorsed the one in Missouri during his presidential campaign.
The ancient conceit of the Democrats in response to gay criticism was "what, are you gays going to do, go to the Republicans or vote third party?!? Ha!"
Some influential Republican legislators have now staked out middle territory once inhabited only by Democrats. Which means that Democrats' lousy records on gay issues are just that much more embarrassing than they were in the past.
Consider the leading Democratic nominees in contrast to this, and their claims of "liberalism" start to look pretty threadbare. Some more interesting commentary:
“I'm a hardheaded man. What can I say?” Childers, 65, says. “I've always felt like right is right and wrong is wrong. What's right is giving people their rights.” After all, he adds, Wyoming's motto is “The Equality State.”
Well, we've been saying a similar thing for a while (though we don't think that one "gives" people their rights, but rather recognizes that those rights exist). In any event, it will be interesting to see how this plays out within the local GOP organization.
Zwonitzer? “We're not a religious conservative state. We're a libertarian state,” the 27-year-old says. “After I made my speech, I heard from Republicans throughout the state. They said that it's about time that the party gets back to what it was.”
It's not just a libertarian state, but a libertarian country. That's why a vote for the Libertarian Party is the best vote around to send a message to the GOP base (who will likely pillory these two Wyoming legislators) and the Democratic base alike -- that it's not just time to stand up against the worst predations, but to move ahead.
Democrats and Republicans ask for accolades for standing up against anti-gay bills. Libertarians ask for the opportunity to go well beyond opposing the worst anti-gay legislation -- choosing instead to level the legal playing field to deliver equal treatment under the law for all LGBT Americans.