Ken Mehlman: Sorry about All the Anti-Gay Stuff!

I’m guessing it made some people happy, but Tom Schaller’s Salon story about Republican strategist and former Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman (who is gay) being sorry about his party’s anti-gay electoral strategies made me really sad.

Sure, it’s happy news that public opinion has moved, in a remarkably short time, in favor of same-sex marriage. Sure, it’s always happy when someone realizes and attempts to correct a vicious, horrible thing they once did, especially when that thing was using political power and influence to deprive people (including oneself) of basic civil rights. Good news.

As Schaller’s piece notes, although on a national level opposition to gay marriage is losing its potency, that hasn’t diminished the vigor of anti-gay activists in the states to block marriage equality measures, or, as is about to happen in Maryland, push referenda that would reverse marriage equality laws passed in the legislature. That’s why it’s good news when someone with Mehlman’s stature takes a contrary stand. If only he could persuade the minions of his party’s essential base, the religious right, to fall in line.

I can’t help but think that the realization that opposition to LGBT equality is losing its potency has led the GOP and its conservative allies to go off the rails on women’s and reproductive rights. Who would have thought, just a year ago, that contraception would be a national issue discussed on the presidential campaign trail or in Congress, the subject of Congressional hearings, and the target of fierce lobbying efforts by religious organizations? Who would have thought that the simple statement of a law student that she uses contraception would cause a national outbreak of misogyny that tops even the previously-achieved apex of hatred spewed by Rush Limbaugh?

Religious opposition to gay marriage is rooted in notions of “God’s design” for men and women, and for sex. If conservatives can’t convince the American public that gay marriage violates those notions, they will target women who have sex using contraceptives. As nutty and antiquated as that seems, it’s a reaction to being stymied.

Opponents of same sex marriage have argued permitting marriage equality would violate their religious freedom. Losing that battle shifted their focus to making other, similarly constitutionally erroneous arguments about infringements of religous liberty.

Republicans are on their way to losing the gay marriage fight. That’s why they’ve picked another battle.