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The Two Parties Are Not the Same

Susan Estrich on

Sixty is the magic number to beat a filibuster in the United States Senate. Sixty votes means a bill is on its way to becoming law, at least as far as the Senate is concerned.

Sixty-two votes is how many the gay marriage bill received in the Senate last week.

Twelve Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to support legislation protecting the rights of all people to marry.

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor, speaking of his daughter and her wife who are expecting a child this spring, he wanted "them, and everyone in a loving relationship, to live without the fear that their rights could one day be stripped away."

That fear was realized not only by the fact that the Supreme Court overruled Roe -- so much for all the highfalutin rhetoric about respecting precedent that bought their way through confirmation hearings -- but by Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion suggesting that marriage equality might be next on the Court's chopping block.

Polls show that as many as 70% of all Americans support gay marriage. But 70% of the Court doesn't -- and neither does the leadership of the Republican Party. Thirty-seven Republicans and no Democrats voted against the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led the Republicans to defeat on this one, but he led the overwhelming majority of his party in lockstep.

So much for those who claim that it doesn't matter who wins or loses, that both parties really are the same.

Really, they are not.

The bill has already passed the House once, with a minority of Republicans crossing over to vote with the Democratic majority. One of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's last accomplishments of this Congress, and there have been many, will be a bill that caps a movement begun in her hometown. A movement that has been embraced by the Democratic Party. And not the Republicans.

 

Why are these Republicans voting against allowing people to marry who they choose? Why are they against gay marriage?

The political answer is primary, as in primary politics. In Republican primary politics, ideologues predominate, and conservative ideologues are not libertarians. They do not believe in civil liberties for everyone. They vote out Republicans who do. Find me a Republican candidate for president who dares to agree with the overwhelming majorities favoring Roe and allowing gay marriage. It doesn't count if they live now or ever have lived in Massachusetts.

The principle? What is the principle? Some people believe marriage is between a woman and a man. Some people believe marriage is between two people who love each other. Why should people who believe one thing have a right to enforce their beliefs on people who don't agree with them. Exactly why? What could be more basic to one's liberty than the choice of a life partner? Why would the state know better than the individual? Big government, anyone?

The hypocrisy is easy to call out. Once, the law forbade interracial marriage, until the Lovings took their case to the Supreme Court. The arguments about interracial marriage echoed those against gay marriage. It would be difficult -- so why not make it more difficult? It would be hard on the children -- as if the average marriage, which fails, is better?

The arguments don't hold up, and it doesn't matter. What matters is equality and autonomy and respect. And the two parties stand very differently on these matters, and if they aren't fundamental, then what is? The Republicans have a long way to go. Twelve of 50 is enough for a Democratic victory, but it's not enough to save a party from being rightly viewed as anti-gay. They are.

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To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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