Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both gushed about their moms in tributes as tactical as they were teary.
Latinos were plentiful and flexed their Spanish — “En América, todo es posible,” said Susana Martinez, the New Mexico governor — despite an “English First” plank in the party’s regressive platform.
And while one preconvention poll suggested that roughly zero percent of African-Americans support Romney, Republicans found several prominent black leaders to testify for him. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, delivered what will surely be remembered as the convention’s most stirring and substantive remarks, purged of catcalls and devoid of slickly rendered fibs.
But you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.
It was striking not because a convention or political party should make a list of minority groups and dutifully put a check mark beside each. That’s an often hollow bow to political correctness.
It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted.
It also denied where the country is so obviously headed and where so many Republicans have quietly arrived. To wit: David Koch, the billionaire industrialist who has funneled millions into efforts to elect Romney and other Republicans, told a Politico reporter who caught up with him in Tampa and asked him about gay rights, “I believe in gay marriage.” Reminded that Romney didn’t, Koch said, “Well, I disagree with that.”
Romney exemplifies the party’s cowardice on this front, its continued deference to the religious extremists who get king-size beds and down-stuffed duvets in the tent.
Back during his 1994 Senate campaign in Massachusetts, he wrote, “If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.” He never endorsed same-sex marriage, but he gave no inkling that he’d swerve rightward to the positions he articulated during the Republican primaries and currently holds. He favors a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. He opposes even civil unions.
“I believe that marriage has been defined the same way for literally thousands of years by virtually every civilization in history and that marriage is, by its definition, a relationship between a man and woman,” he said earlier this year — a statement of curious sweep, given his religious ancestry. Little more than a hundred years ago, Mormons defined marriage as a relationship between a man and multiple women. That was the tradition. They ultimately decided that a new approach was necessary — and better. That’s all that those of us who advocate marriage equality are asking Romney and other political leaders to do.
People who know Romney well tell me that he’s not in the least judgmental about gays and lesbians and that he’s more or less accepting of them. That may be so, but it makes him, like others in his party, guilty of a kind of doublespeak, their private sentiments at odds with their public stances.
Steve Levitan, one of the creators of the television comedy “Modern Family,” dared Ann Romney last week to put her public advocacy where her viewing habits are. After she named his show, which spotlights a gay couple with an adopted child, as her favorite, he Tweeted: “We’ll offer her the role of officiant at Mitch & Cam’s wedding. As soon as it’s legal.”
Several gay Republicans with whom I spoke in Tampa said that the near-complete absence of any talk onstage about gays and lesbians was in fact a hopeful sign that the party’s extremists on gay issues had lost the war to moderates. At least gays and lesbians weren’t being cast in a negative light, as a way of riling the worst of the base.
“Our messaging within the party has been: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” said R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay advocacy group.
But that’s not progress enough. Silence does nothing for gay and lesbian teenagers racked with self-doubt and anxiety about what the world has in store. Or for committed same-sex couples who lack the legal protections that their straight counterparts have. Silence is a stalling tactic, and silence is a cop-out.
On the convention stage in Tampa, where estrogen was platinum and melanin was gold, Republicans spoke eloquently about a country that valued every person’s worth and was poised to reward each person’s dreams. Those words would have carried much more weight if coupled with even a glancing recognition of gay and lesbian Americans. Instead speakers tacitly let the party’s platform do the talking. It calls for the kind of constitutional amendment that Romney now supports.
Sorry, Governor Martinez, you’re wrong. Todo no es posible. Not if you’re gay and live in Wisconsin (Ryan’s home state), Michigan (Romney’s) or 42 others and want to get married. Not if you’re gay and listened to all the soaring oratory in Tampa with the wish for one sentence or syllable of reassurance that the tent stretched all the way to you.
Original article on The New York Times