Sometimes when you are running in a district full of people who hate your party, and when your own campaign is down by 20 percentage points in a fast approaching election, you start to do crazy things. In Gary Delong’s case, he is risking pissing off his incredibly anti-gay party and his own homophobic endorsers by at least trying to attach the “social moderate” label to his candidacy. In a recent canned editorial column in the Press-Telegram, Delong was described and quoted in the most moderate way possible:
The fiscally conservative Long Beach councilman is running for the new 47th Congressional seat and said during a recent editorial board meeting that he is pro-choice, environmentally friendly and supports gay marriage.
“Clearly, I’m more socially liberal,” said DeLong, who handed the editorial board a campaign pamphlet that did not note his party affiliation.
“Think of any other social litmus test, and you would probably find me more of a moderate Democrat in my social views,” he said. “I’m not running as a member of a party, I’m running for everybody.”
Beyond the idiotic idea that a “fiscal conservative” can also be a “social moderate” (unless shitting on poor people is a morally acceptable in this district), the acceptance of Delong in the press as someone who is “pro gay rights” encapsulates both the awful status of professional political journalism, and the patronizing nature of the Delong Campaign. In the 21st century voters who believe in marriage equality and human rights expect more than just blatant pandering from their politicians, they expect a firm commitment and a proven record of support.
Let’s breakdown why Mr. Delong’s personal beliefs on this subject are completely worthless tidbits of disingenuous information.
First of all, if you are someone who believes that equal rights for gay people, including the right to marry, you might be surprised that there is an extremely strong constitutional argument to support your ideology. Let’s go to our friend the Fourteenth Amendment for an appropriate starting point:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The bolded sentence there is key to understanding why Delong is full of shit on this issue. The 14th is a powerful Amendment providing people who society has traditionally hated a slew of rights and protections that they otherwise would not have (we literally fought the Civil War in order for it to exist). When you understand the impact of the 14th on the marriage debate, you can fully grasp why Delong is merely sucking up to voters rather than providing an actual preview of his policy platform on the off chance that he is elected to congress this fall.
The Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia declared that marriage is a “fundamental right” under the Constitution. This means that all laws that restrict this fundamental right must survive what is called “strict scrutiny” – which is fancy lawyer talk for saying that their better be a good goddamn reason for the government to restrict this right and the law must actually accomplish that reason in the least awful way possible. Furthermore the 14th also requires “equal protection” under the law. This concept becomes important because after Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, it seems that explicitly anti-gay laws are all possibly unconstitutional as they do not further a “legitimate state interests” and do so in a way that pretty blatantly discriminates against a possibly “suspect class” of citizens.
Given this information you might be wondering: why exactly does this issue matter in a Congressional race? If the courts are trending to enact marriage equality doesn’t that negate whatever opinions that a single policy maker has on the issue? Well unfortunately history tells us that whenever a court interprets the Constitution in a way that prevents the law from reflecting bigotry, Congress tends to react negatively and throw a hissy fit instead of complying with the courts.
After legal discrimination on the basis of race was overturned by the courts in Brown, it still took Congress over a decade to pass substantial legislation to enforce civil rights like voting or equal access to public facilities. It is same story for women. Fespite the clear constitutional precedent against gender discrimination and restrictions on a woman’s reproductive rights, they are still frequently targeted by both state and federal legislators who have enacted viciously sadistic laws to score political influence with conservative voters. Either of those scenarios could easily happen again if the courts were to interpret the Constitution as supporting equal rights for gay people. Therefore it is imperative that there are supportive members of congress in place to enforce any mandate from courts to overturn existing discriminatory legislation, and to enact new laws that explicitly protect the civil rights of gay people. Nothing Delong has ever said demonstrates that he would act in such a manner if he were to be elected.
Delong’s statements on this issue are deliberately vague (which is not a big surpise) because his party has decided to try its hardest to court the bigots who returned the White House to George Bush in 2004. It maybe hard to remember, but at the time a full 2/3rds of the country was against gay marriage, and the GOP then (as it does now) supported a Constitutional Amendment that would specifically deny gay people the right to marry. Since then times have obviously changed, as evident by new polling on the issue, and on the Democratic Party’s decision to include marriage equality and support for anti-discrimination laws right into their national platform. Even the President, who used to explicitly state his opposition to marriage equality, has finally decided to “evolve” into personally endorsing gay marriage.
Now you might look at Obama’s views on the subject and conclude that they are exactly the same as Delong’s, and you would be right. However context matters when comparing the case of Obama to Delong on the issue of gay rights. While Obama stopped well short of supporting the issue in the way that someone like me would like him to do, his record on gay rights is simply fantastic. Prominent gay rights advocates like Andrew Sullivan (friend of the blog) and Dan Savage have been and continue to be extremely vocal in their support of the President and his accomplishments in ending DADT, supporting anti-bulling intaitaives, signing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime law, or any of the myriad of other policy successes that demonstrate Obama’s commitment to equal rights for all.
Gary Delong on the other hand told a newspaper that he supports gay marriage. Oh, and he went to his first pride parade this year (how convenient). Those two “accomplishments” are the entirety of his involvement with the gay rights movement.
Gary Delong might have gay friends. He appeared in this year’s gay pride parade. He is also personally supportive of gay marriage. However all of these facts are completely meaningless in the context of his actual intentions of enforcing what is without a doubt, a fundamental civil right for all American citizens. Unless Delong clearly says “I believe in the fundamental right to marry, and I believe that laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation are unconstitutional”, he is lying through omission about his true intentions as a policy maker. Delong’s campaigning on this issue is nothing more than a cynically patronizing attempt to trick voters who do not fully understand the complexities of their own civil rights. It would be nice if the press called him out on this.