CommunityPam's House Blend

Democratic National Committee’s new faith outreach director opposes marriage equality

I guess Rick Warren wasn’t available. — Joe Sudbay of Americablog

Yeah, my friend Joe sums it up – a party unwilling to move the equality ball forward within the squishy area of “faith outreach”. The current President of the United States is still personally “evolving” on the matter of marriage equality even as his administration is no longer officially defending DOMA, so sending mixed signals is really no surprise at all.  Gwen Ashby, Director for Believe Out Loud:

It was with a sinking heart, and not a little anger, that I read last week about the appointment of Rev. Derrick Harkins as the new Faith Outreach Director for the Democratic National Committee.  Turns out Rev. Harkins, who has a long list of Democratic-leaning affiliations, is opposed to marriage equality.  When asked by Religion Dispatches’ Senior Editor Sarah Posnerwhether he was a supporter of same-sex marriage, he replied, “No, no, no.” As if one “no” wasn’t sufficient.

What a missed opportunity.

With the jury of popular and faith-based opinion consistently rising in favor of marriage equality, why does our political leadership continue to pander to the lowest common (discriminatory) denominator?

There are people on Team Obama who continue to believe that there are voters to be wooed that are anti-equality. The faithvote is not monolithic. It boils down to following rather than leading.

Interestingly, Ashby points to statistics that are actually enabling the DNC to continue supporting anti-equality appointments like this:

Sadly, this lack of political-will comes in part from our silence. According to a recent finding by Public Religion Research Institute, those who oppose marriage equality make it a bottom line issue when deciding who to vote for, while those who support marriage equality don’t. “Among Americans who oppose same-sex marriage, only 30% say if their representative supported this issue it would not make a difference in their support, compared to more than two-thirds (67%) who say they would be less likely to support the candidate.”

In contrast, “Among Americans who support same-sex marriage, a majority (53%) say if their representative supported this issue it would not make a difference in their support, compared to 44% who say they would be more likely to support the candidate.”

If these voting patterns tell us anything, it’s that supporters of marriage equality are not “single-issue” voters; far from a bad thing. But all good intentions aside, if we allow the issue to slide, how will candidates ever be put on notice regarding the importance of marriage equality?

For better or worse (pun intended), until we make marriage equality a bottom line issue, our political leaders will continue to relegate it to the back burner, hiding discriminatory policies behind the rhetoric of equality.

And this is a realistic view; allies are essential for cultural and legislative progress, but until they see equality as a priority when it comes to voting, this kind of political jiu-jitsu will continue. Elected leaders need to feel the pressure of allies who call them out when they see pols trying to skirt equality issues, or as, in this case, the DNC needing pander to opponents of equality.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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