Gay marriage Johnny Come-Latelys: Political Expediency at Its Finest

Smirnoff vodka recently launched a series of ads in support of gay marriage. (Google Images)

Smirnoff vodka recently launched a series of ads in support of gay marriage. (Google Images)

Initially, many thought the revolution on gay marriage would not be televised. On second thought, perhaps the revolution will be televised. And “Liked.” And “Tweeted.” And commemorated with an emblazoned equality sign. And co-opted by Smirnoff vodka.

None of which will be outdone by Her Lady of Bling. Here’s what Beyonce said recently: “If you like it you should be able to put a ring on it #wewillunite4marriageequality! B”

OK, I gotta admit that last one was pretty cute. And to be honest, I am not trying to be snarky. It’s just that this sudden fervor to support gay marriage has got me feeling, a little, well, used. You can’t fault pop culture for being pop culture. But what about these Johnny come-lately politicians all jumping into the gay rights water in apparent tandem?

Let’s begin with Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. A few daya ago, she came out in support of gay marriage. It was the most deft bit of territorial pissing I have witnessed in American politics. With a few simple words she was able to A.) Stake her claim to the 2016 presidential election. B.) Dust off the possible cobwebs on her political crown — as it relates to younger voters who she had difficulty connecting with in 2008. C.) Head off what will definitely be an obstacle to her candidacy in 2016, the fact that she did not support gay marriage in 2008 and asked as recently as 2011 she said her position had not changed.

But perhaps more importantly, she at least tried to moot the actions of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Clinton is obviously well loved as this elder stateman in the party and remembered fondly (though apparently quite vaguely) by many Democratic constitutencies. Most folks simply recall that he left the budget in a surplus, having been handed a deficit. But Clinton’s signature political triangulation, dusted off and held to current standards would not pass the sniff test.

The fact is, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and the “Defense of Marriage Act” are both Clinton constructs. The fact is, though he did some impressive post-presidential AIDS work, he barely uttered the words AIDS or gay rights during his presidency. The fact is: In 2004 he urged then presidential candidate John Kerry to support the ban against marriage for political expediency.

“Clinton, Kerry reported at the time, did suggest blunting Bush’s appeal to cultural conservatives with a reprise of Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment in 1992 when he’d denounced her call for violence against whites — and done it as conspicuously as possible in front of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition,” Bob Shrum wrote in his 2008 book No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner.

“Kerry, Clinton ventured, should consider defying Democratic interest groups by endorsing the Bush proposal for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.”

Shrum went on to add that this was a “flip-flop too far for Kerry.”

Just 10 years ago, politicians were expressing political cowardice by denying the rights of gays. Now, they are showing the same level of political cowardice by falling over themselves to support gay marriage. I understand the concept of reciprocity. I also understand the gay rights movement needs the good will and support of these politicians. But would it be so bad, if the calculated reasons for this sudden wave of support from former opponents were a bit less transparent?

Devona Walker is the politics editor for The Burton Wire

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