“The things you talk about, like traditional marriage and family and entrepreneurship – these aren’t values that are indicative to any one person, or race, or creed or color,” said Ryan during a campaign stop in Ohio recently. “These are American values, these are universal human values.”
But what the vice presidential nominee is forgetting – along with most vocal leaders in the GOP these days – is that more than half of all Americans actually support same-sex marriage. And while conservatives are trying to use it as a wedge issue with moderates, hoping to turn them against Obama and pushing them into the arms of the Romney-Ryan ticket, the numbers don’t lie.
Seventy-three percent of voters ages 18 to 34 support same-sex marriage, according to Freedom to Marry. And 60 percent of independents support it, along with 60 percent more who say they know someone who is gay. In many ways, supporting marriage rights is actually agreeable with the Republican platform dictating less government, and yet this is one issue where many in the GOP can’t get enough of wanting to legislate against it – so much so they are willing into write discrimination in the constitution for the first time in history.
In some ways, folks like Ryan who are adamantly anti-gay remind us of the same people who were against ending segregation. They use the same logic and thrive on difference rather than focusing on the real issue – the civil rights opportunity of our time.
Interestingly, however, Ryan – like his running mate Romney – once supported (well, sort of) a few LGBT rights initiatives. He voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Bill (the law that would prevent gay people from being fired for being gay) – and then voted against it. He also voted against hate crime legislation and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” though he now says the repeal should stay since so many service members have come out. Not the greatest logic, but progress, right?
But that Ryan or anyone running for office would use LGBT rights as a wedge issue to attract arch conservatives is disheartening. Banning gay parents from adopting children (Ryan voted in favor of that, too) or being fired just because of who you sleep with are not issues that deserve to be paraded around to incite support from the most ignorant fringe of voters in this nation. These are real issues that real people face every day – issues like being afraid to come out at work, or being unable to visit a lover in the hospital because you’re not “family,” or not being allowed to adopt the child that you are raising as a gay mom or dad.
But when these issues do come up, Paul Ryan (like Mitt) says they are “meaningless,” that there are more “important” issues to discuss. No one’s denying that the economy is an enormously important topic, but so are issues that impact peoples’ lives everyday, like gay rights, reproductive freedom and the ability to live open and honest lives without fear of being punished for it, or losing one’s job because of it or not being able to enjoy the same rights that straight couples do and not paying more taxes because you can’t have a union (talk about the economy).
The joke’s on Ryan and Romney, though, as more Americans see through the gimmicks and admit what they really think about giving people the freedom to love exactly who they want in a legitimate way. As more voters realize that gay marriage doesn’t undermine straight marriage – and that it actually offers validation for values most people hold dear – Ryan will be left out in the cold with his disconnected thinking. And as more people come out and support issues like marriage equality, it will only make these guys look exactly like what they really are – out of touch. Because the party that talks about family values is sorely lacking them.