And it will take a good Democratic candidate to deal with the one social issue that threatens to divide the nation during the upcoming election. The right is mobilizing around the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that gay and lesbian couples should be granted the same rights as straights to marry.“Radical homosexual activists have made their intentions clear—‘couples’ will now converge on Massachusetts, ‘marry,’ and return to their respective states to file lawsuits to challenge Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs) and try to force the states to recognize their ‘marriages,’” Alan Sears, president of the Christian right legal team, the Alliance Defense Fund, told Focus on the Family.Social conservatives fear that when states with DOMAs refuse to grant married status to same-sex couples wed in Massachusetts, homosexual marriage will become a federal issue and end up in the same Supreme Court that overturned Texas’ anti-sodomy law.The one action that could nullify this threat is a constitutional amendment that defines the legal contract of “marriage” as one between a man and a woman. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson warns: “The dire ramifications of what is happening in the United States and other Western nations cannot be overstated. For millennia, traditional marriage—the union of one man and one woman—has been celebrated by every culture on Earth as the cornerstone of society. But now, we have this activist court that is arrogant enough to say that those thousands of years of culture are simply wrong. We simply must act.” Now is the time for all good Christians to fight the “tidal wave of homosexual activism that is sweeping around the globe.”For Republican political strategists in 2004, it will be “Goodbye Willie Horton, hello gay marriage.”Democratic political strategists are worried that the gay marriage issue could make it difficult to win states with large populations of Christian fundamentalists. “I don’t care who gets married,” James Carville told Maureen Dowd earlier this year, “but the Republicans will use this to divide the Democrats and reduce us to an accumulation of interest groups—a woman’s right to choose, a kid’s right to education, a transgender’s right to whatever.”Yes, the Republicans will try to do so. But in this case the best defense is a good offense. As Jackson said in his support for Dean, “If Howard Dean wins the nomination around an economic agenda and can effectively combat the certain Republican tactic of diversion—using social issues openly, and race more subtly, to sublimate economic concerns—then Democrats may once again be able to win in the South and pursue a progressive economic agenda for the benefit of all Americans.”
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.