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Views: Michelangelo Signorile - America Shrugged
by Michelangelo Signorile

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'BARRING A MIRACLE, the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble,' warned the evangelist and psychologist Dr. James Dobson, regarding Massachusetts' impending first state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. Promises, promises! May 17 came and went, and the last time I checked, the family was still standing, dysfunctional as ever. The world is still spinning on its axis, the American economy keeps sputtering along and Iraq continues to spiral out of control.

The End of Civilization has proven to be the biggest, most over-hyped disappointment since the Y2K bug. No rapture, no floods, no earthquakes, no locusts. (Cicadas do not count.) The firstborn of every family did not die, nor did God strike Massachusetts off the map with an almighty thunderbolt. The weather, from what I could gather, seemed unseasonably pleasant.

Evangelical leaders were hoping the pictures on television of gay couples getting hitched would sicken and outrage the masses, driving millions of Americans to the barricades to take on the enemy within.

'The attacks on Pearl Harbor, New York and Washington awakened the nation to peril and called citizens to action,' said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, comparing those attacks to the Massachusetts decision. He even called May 17 'a day that will live in moral infamy.'

Judging from most people's reactions, it's a day that's already been forgotten. So the new tack by the goofy God squad is to claim that people are in a state of shock, experiencing a delayed response.

'The fact is, enough people haven't awakened,' the Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, told the Washington Post. 'It's a sleeping giant out there ... . And when [people] wake up I feel bad for the homosexuals.'

Actually, people have woken up, and they're quite revolted. But the same-gender photo pairings that got them sick to their stomachs weren't coming out of Massachusetts: They were the photos out of Abu Ghraib, depicting the humiliating simulated sex acts that American soldiers and civilian contractors—using homosexual sex in a grotesquely homophobic manner—forced male Iraqi detainees to engage in.

In that respect, the timing of the Massachusetts marriages couldn't have been better. The prison abuse scandal, the continuing violence in Iraq and the administration's handling of the war puts same-sex marriage in perspective for most people. George W. Bush's approval ratings have plummeted as Americans realize that it's not gay marriage that's destroying the country, but rather the president, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and the rest of the gang in the White House. They're the ones who've taken us to war based on lies and have irreparably damaged the nation's integrity.

In Congress, the federal marriage amendment seems dead in the water. Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that the Senate cancelled a hearing on the amendment at which the homo-obsessed Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was to appear. How would it look if, in the middle of all the turmoil in the Middle East, reports came out of Washington depicting our senators focused on an issue that ranks at the bottom of voters' lists of priorities in every poll?

Several months back, I wrote that the FMA could turn out to be more of a problem for Bush than John Kerry (who doesn't support same-sex marriage either), as most voters, no matter how they feel about gay unions, have little passion to amend the Constitution or even to waste much time debating the issue. That has turned out to be true, but I didn't foresee other factors that have further complicated the FMA from Bush's perspective. Several recent reports have noted that the proposed gay marriage ban, while a major talking point for evangelical leaders, is failing to excite the evangelical rank and file. Even if they are adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, many are ambivalent about getting the federal government involved. It's not a black-and-white issue for them, like abortion, nor is it one that gets them to empty their pockets and run to the polls.

'Just four months after an alliance of conservative Christians was threatening a churchgoer revolt unless President Bush championed an amendment banning same-sex marriage, members say they have been surprised and disappointed by what they call a tepid response from the pews,' The New York Times reported.

If the FMA doesn't energize the GOP's religious base, and if the abortion issue doesn't fulfill that function either—Bush's chipping away at abortion rights might make some conservative Christians complacent in 2004—Bush may get the same turnout among evangelicals that he got in 2000, which was a disappointment to Karl Rove. Meanwhile, Bush will have alienated some moderate Republicans and Democrats who previously supported him. But perhaps more important, he will have energized many liberal Democrats and gay-rights advocates.

Gay groups on campuses and in community centers are registering new voters, painting Bush as a tyrant who is turning gays into second-class citizens. The Human Rights Campaign launched an ad campaign excoriating Bush, which will appear more than 85 times in GLBT community publications. Even the Log Cabin Republicans launched TV commercials critical of Bush for supporting the amendment.

Most of those in the religious right who feel passionately about the FMA are voting for Bush anyway. It's quite possible that Bush's continued vocal support of the FMA will get more Democrats than Republicans out to vote—it's certainly energizing loyal Democratic constituencies like gays and lesbians.

Meanwhile, the majority of voters, including swing voters, will only continue to note that Bush is trying to change the subject and focus on an issue that is not a priority for them. It's not that they support same-sex marriage necessarily—though the most recent Newsweek poll showed a slim majority supporting some form of legal sanction for gay unions—but seeing Bush pandering to the religious right while there are so many other issues affecting the country isn't going to play well. As an issue this election year, same-sex marriage may turn out to be a trap that Karl Rove set for Kerry, but which hapless W. walked into all by himself.

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