[I posted this over at the JE08 blog after someone posted No politician has to take a position on this,, meaning marriage equality.]
Actually, they do.
This is a question every person who cares about civil equality should ask of every candidate -- and expect an answer:
Are gay and lesbian couples entitled to benefits at the local, state, and federal levels that are automatically conveyed with civil marriage? If not, why not? If yes, tell us why?
We're talking about equal rights to civil marriage, not "gay marriage" (which is loaded -- and leaves it open to the conflation of religious and civil marriage, which the right counts on). In the wake of so many state amendments that have passed, placing gay and lesbian families' rights in legal jeopardy, those running for office are obligated to get on the record. Merely stating one believes "marriage is between a man and a woman" or saying "let the states decide" will no longer fly. Edwards' statement and public emotional wrangling over the issue is heartfelt, but his position is not markedly different than in 2004.
What I do appreciate is that John Edwards is not dodging the general question early on, he delivered an answer that I believe reflects the opinion of many of the folks out there on the fence. Most candidates in 2004 ran from discussing the issue like the plague; the Democratic Party's silence played into the hands of equality opponents by appearing to give off an air that there's something unseemly about gay and lesbian couples wanting to have rights that convey with civil marriage. It was palpable.
Expecting an answer is not the same as saying marriage equality is the single most important issue facing our country today; that's just another shield thrown up when people would rather change the subject. Bush has made sure that there are plenty of matters at the top of the list, managing to screw up foreign and domestic policy in mind-blowing, budget-busting, eco-damaging, miltary-destroying, civil-liberty slashing ways. It doesn't mean, however, that the question of marriage equality should be avoided.
The lack of leadership in both parties as the rights of LGBT taxpayers have been subject to the public's whim at the ballot box is a disgrace and hurts real, not hypothetical people by creating a legal limbo and second-class status - that is uniquely un-American. How else will this issue be tackled unless a national discussion is generated and debated with positive framing? Opening up a public dialogue allows everyone to become more comfortable with discussing the issue.
The Democrats have been content to let the Dobsons, Falwells, Bauers and Wildmons drive the train. It's time to boot them all off the caboose and onto the tracks.
And for those who say civil unions with all the same benefits as "marriage" is adequate, I presume no one would mind if all current heterosexual marriages would be converted to civil unions at the same time, leaving the word "marriage" at the house of worship's door. Until that occurs, we're going to see the problems of "separate but equal" in New Jersey, which by law has decided upon civil unions rather than opening marriage to gays and lesbians. The state now has to have a commission to look at all the cracks in the system that will occur as they find out that separate isn't exactly equal.