Remember 2004, when many a Democrat (and many more religious right demagogues) blamed gay marriage for John Kerry’s defeat? Remember San Francisco, where Senator Dianne Feinstein publicly scolded Mayor Gavin Newsom the morning after for arranging those awful queer unions just in time to get Bush re-elected? No? Well, don’t worry. Nobody at the DNC is very much eager to pull out that particular wedding album either. Since those days, California’s Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage (prompting Newsom to claim "vindication"), and one–yes, just one–anti-gay marriage initiative was beat back at the polls (in Arizona in 2006) while several others have passed. Meanwhile, a federal marriage amendment–which Bush backs but McCain opposes–hangs over not the Democrats, but the Republicans–a nuclear option that not even Karl Rove seems particularly keen to use.
If gay rights (or opposition to it) is not quite yet a problem for the GOP, it has certainly shifted–rapidly and decisively–to a non-issue in the Democratic party. Indeed, it’s become a point of pride for the party as a whole: Melissa Etheridge sang primetime at the DNC, Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin hosted a packed luncheon for LGBT delegates (at which Michelle Obama spoke) and speaker after speaker (including Hillary Clinton) has mentioned gays and lesbians at the podium.
That’s not to say the party embraces everything many gay advocates would like ("full marriage equality," for example). But the Democratic platform this year is the most pro-gay it has ever been, calling for a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, employment non-discrimination legislation that includes trans folks, increased money to fight AIDS and opposition to the federal marriage amendment. There was some worry earlier this month by gay activists who noticed that the words "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender" appear nowhere in the platform (unlike 2004), but that reflects a move toward using the terms "sexual orientation," "same-sex couple" and "gender identity"–expressions that have some legal teeth. As for marriage, not a single gay delegate I spoke with said it was a make or break issue for them. Most seemed content with the new détente–that the marriage battle is going to be fought out in numerous state referenda and, one day, the Supreme Court–a contentious issue still, but not the so-called determinative national culture war of ’04 and nothing to risk a McCain administration over.