Gay Marriage Advocates Must Start Courting Republicans

It's time for the equality movement to embrace the other side of the aisle.

By SHARE
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A majority of those polled believe same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal based on the U.S. Constitution, not the states.

Gay rights activists will probably not see the 39 state bans on same-sex marriage declared unconstitutional when the Supreme Court's issues its ruling on Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the challenge to California's Proposition 8. The audio transcripts reveal an inescapable point: The justices are reluctant to weigh in on the debate. The case will probably be dismissed on procedural grounds.

If this prediction holds true, marriage equality groups must expand their influence beyond their preferred litigation, communications, lobbying and ballot referendum tactics. Although these efforts have been successful — nine states, the District of Columbia and three Native American tribes now legally recognize same-sex marriage, and recent polls show that a majority of the public supports gay rights — they are not enough to guarantee greater success.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

Activists must adopt a party-agnostic electoral strategy. Court both Democratic and Republican Party candidates who support gay rights. Timing is on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community's side. The GOP wants to retake control of the Senate in 2014 and win the White House in 2016. Its "Growth & Opportunity Project" makes it clear that to do this they must win over minority voters. Republicans have a great incentive to attract the gay vote; they're already seeing cash opportunities resulting from their changing stance on same-sex marriage.

Implementing a party-agnostic strategy, however, will come with great difficulty. During the 2012 election, nearly all the funds raised by prominent gay rights political action committees were distributed to Democratic candidates. The Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest of these organizations and listed as a "Heavy Hitter" by opensecrets.org, contributed just 3 percent of its $818,000 candidate fund to Republicans.

Maintaining an exclusive relationship with the Democratic Party works to the detriment of the equality movement. The left has electorally captured the LGBT community. Democrats make promises during their campaigns in order to win donations, but once in office they break or delay them so as not to alienate the majority. It's a numbers game. Democrats focus on majorities to guarantee their incumbency, but campaign to gay voters to swing close elections.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the Supreme Court Overturn the Defense of Marriage Act?]

President Obama's first term reluctance is a prime example. He made his "evolution" public during his reelection campaign. A move that garnered him $14 million from a Hollywood fundraising event held a few days later. Indeed, his decision was partly driven by his moral commitment to equality, but it was also a self-interested move that improved his relationship with the progressives, voters who had criticized many of his first term decisions. The question now is will the president deliver on the promises he made to the gay community during his State of the Union address. Most LGBT activists doubt it; they're moderating their expectations.

The biggest benefit gained from a party-agnostic strategy is that the gay community will have a solid chip to help them hold elected officials accountable. If politicians don't keep their promises, PACs can support another candidate or threaten to pull support should the incumbent not act. A one-party strategy just doesn't allow this. Gay rights organizations offer plenty of carrots, but have no stick. It's time for the equality movement to embrace the other side of the aisle.

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