Republicans outside of Washington are dropping their opposition to gay marriage. Will the national party follow along?
Developments across the country in recent days signal a building momentum within the Republican Party to end the GOP's long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage, with activists arguing that doing so will allow GOP candidates to focus more on popular economic themes in this year's elections and help expand the party's appeal ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The recent flurry of state bills giving religious exemptions from certain laws -- including the Arizona law that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) just vetoed -- raises a question: How many states already provide heightened protection for the exercise of religion?
The answer? Thirty-one, 18 of which passed state laws based on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The protections in an additional 13 states came through court rulings. Here's a map of which states have added protections and which do not:
Updated 9:52 a.m.
Gay rights haven’t been a major topic of discussion on Capitol Hill since Congress voted to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in late 2010.
But a proposed federal ban on workplace discrimination against gay men, lesbians and transgender people is set to dominate the Senate calendar this week as debate begins on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
When speakers at Wednesday’s “Let Freedom Ring” rally listed the social injustices that still need to be addressed, discrimination based on sexual orientation made almost every speech.
President Obama described the force for justice “when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who were discriminated against and understands it as their own.” Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farmworkers, argued that the only way discrimination is going to end against “people of color, against women, against our LGBT community is if we do it, which means that we’ve got to outreach to those that are not with us.” And Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) questioned what audience members had done to fight “for men and women, black and white, Latino and Asian, Muslim, Christian and Jew, gay and straight.”
Gay rights advocates hailed a Senate panel's approval Wednesday of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But does the fact that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions approved it with three Republican aye votes mean the politics have suddenly changed on this bill, which has been under consideration for nearly two decades?
While same-sex marriage and workplace discrimination against gays have been attracting headlines recently, there's another, lower-profile front in the gay rights battle: the fight over second-parent adoption for same-sex couples.
There are seven states that bar a resident from adopting an unmarried partner's biological or adoptive child if he or she is gay; there are are nine that allow it if the same-sex couple is married, has a civil union or domestic partnership; and 12 that allow it regardless of the couple's marital, civil union or domestic partnership status. The remaining states do not have clearly-established laws on the subject.
When President Obama said Monday that "our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," he made history by becoming the first president to advocate for gay rights in an inaugural address.
The remark was a reflection of shifting attitudes toward the issue of gay marriage. It was also a reminder of how far the president's own position has moved.
Last Tuesday's election was a watershed moment for the gay marriage movement. Voters in three states voted to legalize it -- something no state had done before -- and a fourth state voted against a proposed ban.
And if the movement catches on in other states, African Americans and Latinos will be a big reason why.
The at-times-uneasy relationship between President Obama and the gay community hit another bump in the road this week when the White House declined to push through an executive order banning government contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
And while that move raised eyebrows, it’s not the major sticking point between the GLBT community and Obama. That, of course, is gay marriage.
Salon’s Steve Kornacki this week points out that, while most of the Democratic Party’s class of potential 2016 presidential contenders supports gay marriage, Obama has still, despite indications that he may change his position at some point, declined to jump on board. Such a move that would make him first major-party presidential nominee to do so but would hardly make him a trailblazer in Democratic politics.
But gay marriage advocates shouldn’t hold their breath.
In an interview with Salon, the chairman of President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign says he personally apologizes to people who “were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved.”
Ken Mehlman came out as gay in 2010.
At the time, he expressed regret that he didn’t push back against the Bush campaign’s support for a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and anti-gay marriage initiatives on state ballots.