Once again, being on the losing side of history is driving social conservatives mad. Senator Sam Brownback, currently the only presidential hopeful beloved by the far right wingnut community, said yesterdaythat he wants a Senate panel to question judicial nominee Janet Neff, a Michigan who has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, about her role in a 2002 lesbian commitment ceremony. One of the brides was a neighbor and longtime close friend of Neff’s; most Americans would have attended and participated under those circumstances, just as she did, regardless of their opinions about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. But not Sam Brownback, who felt that having a lesbian friend, especially one living next door, should disqualify Neff from the federal bench, and put a block on her nomination. When Senate colleagues objected, Brownback then tried to exact a promise from Neff that she would recuse herself from cases involving same-sex marriage, a condition so barkingly absurd that constitutional scholars nationwide openly jeered at it, and once again Brownback’s colleagues had to rein him in.
Increasing numbers of Americans have gay friends, and the right-wingers are panicked about this. Research shows they’re right to be — having a gay friend, even more than a family member, is closely associated with support for gay rights. And of course, as gay and lesbian Americans live more openly , more straight people are aware of having gay friends. And a studyof recent election data conducted by political scientists Kenneth Sherrill and Patrick Egan found some further bad news for the haters: young people don’t support gay marriage bans. (Egan and Sherrill also found that the initiatives don’t help Republican candidates and are unlikely to fare well in states with fewer evangelical Christians.) So, while this election was a rough one for same-sex couples hoping to make it to the altar, the data suggest that in the long run, anti-gay politics may not have a bright future. Neither — we hope — does Sam Brownback.