Fille Cheney

Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds agree that Kerry's mention of Mary Cheney being a lesbian was a cheap attempt to "swing the votes of homophobes." Are they kidding? The voters in this election who intend to cast their votes based on homophobia aren't voting for John Kerry, period. And undecided homophobes of the presidential debate watching variety aren't sitting at home rethinking a Bush vote so they can keep his vice president's lesbian daughter as far away from the White House as possible. To suggest Kerry would engage in such a "strategy" is just absurd. That's on the level with some of the depths of Gore sneakiness fantasized about in 2000.

Kerry mentioned her because he wanted to point out the administration's hypocrisy on gay issues. Despite Bush's bleating about tolerance and pathetic attempt to spin the FMA as having nothing against gay people, anyone with half a brain in their head knows that people who don't like gay people vote for Bush. Not all Bush voters are homphobes, far from it, but everyone who makes their political decisions based on homophobia is in the Bush camp. By mentioning her, Kerry quietly pointed out that this kind of intolerance is outside the mainstream and untenable, exhibit A being the vice president's proud, out daughter.

Lost in all of this is a more important point: Kerry pushed the envelope of discourse on gay rights in that answer.

Bush's answer boiled down to, "I know most of you don't want to talk and think about this, but at the same time you think some of the people who vote for me are social issues fascists. Let's just sweep it under the rug with some cliche about live and let live, shall we?"

Kerry, on the other hand, revealed a little taste of what the future holds for gay rights as a mainstream social issue, and gay constituencies as a run-of-the-mill presence at the political table. Gays got the same treatment from Kerry on Wednesday that all interest groups get: awkward sympathy from an old straight white man. That's a good thing.

In a decade or so, when the culture war hysteria has been pushed back to the fringe, when the legal crisis over gay families has settled down, and when marriage or domestic partner benefits are nearly universal, that is what gay politics will look like. A craggy old straight white man will be running for president, and he will reach out for gay votes by trying to empathize with the unique hardships involved in being part of that group, and describe the specific policies he will support targeted to those needs.

The power that religious fundamentalists wield over politics right now is temporary. It is a fragile coalition to begin with, and it is contingent on a relatively small number of people that should be turned out of office fairly soon. Once that is out of the way, the progress on gay rights will be determined by whether we have politicians that are willing to take moderate-hat Bush's "Let's not worry about it unless someone forces the issue" stance, or politicians ready to proactively pander to gays like they do everyone else.

For now, our fine leaders, along with their helpmates Mickey and Glenn, are still stuck in 1995, trying to exploit yesterday's closet politics to make people think Kerry crossed some line. If you think he somehow violated her or her family's privacy you are still living in a past where gay people who aren't visibly flaming are assumed to want the full measure of discretion over when they are recognized as gay: "Sure he's comfortable with it, I just don't know if he wants to be gay at work" and that sort of thing. It treats openly gay people as if they must value their ability to 'pass', and it is tired bullshit.

Thoughtful conservatives who think they appreciate gay tolerance (unlike those nasty fundamentalists) need to shut up about this and quick. Did Kerry use her to prove a point? Yes. Can you say anything about it? No. Because that is Kerry's point, dumbasses. If you say something about it, you are admitting you find it uncouth and impolite to mention someone's gayness on national TV, which implies you think there is something delicate and questionable about it. There is simply no way around this. You just have to sit there and accept it as if he mentioned she was an inspiring working woman. Want to do something about it? Then stop covering for people who are trying to cheapen your fellow citizens' civil rights.


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