Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why Voting Matters: Homophobic America Votes, Do You?

Yesterday, Media Matters posted a story on Pat Robertson's attack on Barney Frank, democratic rep. from Massachusetts including in that attack a false allegation that Frank had been running a male prostitution ring from his home. Frank is a respected representative, openly gay, with a true heart and interest in issues that effect us all.
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You can read the entire article here.

Robertson has long been known for his fiery rhetoric and piercing accusations, but perhaps he only holds a candle to Jerry Falwell who manages to blame everything on someone not of his ilk, including the tragedy of 911, and Hurricane Katrina (note that Robertson states he totally agrees with Falwell):

Beliefnet ran a January 2006 article, The Blame Game, seemingly referring to Robertson, Falwell, and Michael Marcavage, the director of Christian group Repent America, as "right-wing nuts". That is certainly a kinder and more civil description that I tend to embrace but I will capitulate.

Of course, we Anglican/Episcopalian types unfortunately have our own similar ilk in the form, for instance, of Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, and Archbishop Peter Akinola, Anglican Church of Nigeria. Both have used violent and debasing language to describe lgbt folks in general, and both support laws to jail lgbt persons in their respective countries. So, I have to put them in the Robertson/Falwell/Marcavage "box" of "right wing nuts".

In the United States, both Massachusetts and California allow same-sex marriage. Other states will, no doubt, pass similar laws or their courts may find prohibition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional in that state. Interestingly, this article on same-sex divorce points out some of the complications.

But these matters don't seem to tip American belief which has, in the last decade, changed significantly. In California, that change has come quickly. In 2004, for instance, polls on gay marriage seemed to show clear opposition. Now, polls show opinion in favor of same-sex marriage in California, though the margin of pro/con is relatively small.

Groups most likely to support same-sex marriage include those under age 30, liberals, Americans living in the west, and those who never go to church.
This was the conclusion, apparently, of a June 2008 poll done by CBS News which further noted that, "Republicans, conservatives, white evangelicals and weekly church attendees are groups that are least likely to support the idea." [emphasis mine]

The more thorough June 12, 2008 Pew Research Center poll, though, has a slightly different take on the issue.
While there is somewhat greater support for gay marriage than four years ago, overwhelming majorities of Republicans (75%) and white evangelical Protestants (81%) oppose allowing gays to marry, and about half in each group strongly opposes gay marriage (48% of Republicans, 54% of white evangelicals). Opinions about gay marriage in both groups are virtually unchanged from July 2004.
And why does it matter? Consider this from the Pew Research Center Poll report:
Strong opponents of gay marriage are far more likely than voters who oppose it less intensely, or those who favor gay marriage, to say it will be a very important factor in their voting decisions. Fully 55% of strong opponents of gay marriage say it is a very important issue, compared with 29% of strong supporters of gay marriage, and even smaller percentages of voters who favor or oppose gay marriage less strongly.
Here, from CNN, are the positions of both Barack Obama and John McCain.

The polling should make clear why both Barack Obama and John McCain, regardless of personal opinion, have taken the positions they have. They will take few positions in opposition to polling data between now and the election with, perhaps, McCain's wild support of the war in Iraq and his opposition to social security being the more obvious exceptions. But then, as we know, McCain changes his own thoughts and pronouncements daily on any issue depending on who he is speaking before. That much is clear.

Two things bother me a lot about this.

First, the secular world doesn't vote as much as the right wing or evangelical world. So, secular world, get out there and vote! Change depends on you.

Second, those of us that are Christian but not "right wing nuts" don't vote as much, either. Shame on us! We have to work all the harder to get people to the polls.

Those of us in TEC, a historically broad, more liberal church in a country where we ARE concerned about both secular and non-secular issues, cannot rest on a single laurel. We must each help to get the vote out to assure civil rights for all, and also continue within our own church to assure that our lgbt brothers and sisters are included equally within our own episcopacy.

We have a lot of work to do.