Betting on bigotry may backfire this time

Remember 2004, when George W. Bush was running for a second term against John Kerry? Bush had a lot going for him in his re-election bid — the nation’s response to 9/11, “swiftboaters” who trashed Kerry’s military record, and state ballot initiatives designed to bring conservative voters to the polls.

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At the top of the list of wedge issues used to rally the base was gay marriage.
Since it worked in 2004, some legislators, among them Dave Brown in District 16, think it’s worth trying in 2012 in Minnesota. They’re proposing a constitutional amendment aimed at Minnesotans’ inner homophobe to get them out on election day.
That was then, this is now, and what worked a few short years ago may backfire this time around.
Seven years seems like a short time, but the strides the nation has made in acceptance of gays and lesbians have been impressive.
You can hardly turn on the tube these days without seeing a gay couple — often kissing, fighting or holding hands like everyone else. Familiarity breeds comfort.
Driving the change are the nation’s young people. As high school and college kids come out of the closet more and more, their peers learn to accept them, and they bring their tolerance home to Mom and Dad, and even Grandpa and Grandma.
My 16-year-old daughter is probably more conservative in her religion and morality than I am, but in this area, she is unquestionably progressive. She can’t understand why anyone would want to prevent gay men and lesbians from tying the knot.
I reckon there are millions just like her, and their acceptance will rub off on older Americans.
I sometimes wonder why gays and lesbians would want to participate in a social institution like marriage when society has been so cruel to them for centuries. But I also understand how our culture elevates marriage as the ultimate expression of commitment and love.
I’m not the first to ask what damage gays and lesbians could do to marriage that heterosexuals haven’t done already. We’ve made such a mess of it that it’s only right to give someone else a shot.
I know how I’ll be voting if the amendment makes it to the ballot, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Senator Brown is shocked by the number of those who agree with me. In fact, Republicans may already be getting cold feet, as they’ve softened the language to potentially allow for civil unions.
I suppose Sen. Brown bases his opposition to gay marriage on the Bible, which says all kinds of things are wrong that we now accept (divorce, eating pork, calling your brother a fool) and right that we don’t (slavery, sexism, forced circumcision).
If we really want to base law on the Bible, we’re gonna need a whole bunch of new amendments.
A second bet may be safer for Republicans: an amendment requiring voters to show a picture ID at the polls (see column on page 5).
Let’s be honest about where this is coming from. Poor folks and minorities, who are more likely to vote for Democrats, will have a harder time coming up with an ID than wealthier, older, whiter voters. Republicans want to suppress turnout among their opponents. Democrats want to increase it.
Since Minnesota is still one of the whitest states in the nation, I wouldn’t be surprised if we vote in favor of a photo ID amendment, if it makes the ballot.
I still think it’s mean-spirited and wrong, and I wish our legislators would spend their time on more important matters.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

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