What a difference a year — and a few public opinion polls — make. Only slightly more than a year ago, Representative Michele Bachman (R-MN) made this comment following the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): “(T)his radical experiment of marriage between other than man and woman…nature tells us, our biology tells us that marriage is between man and a woman. When we tamper with something that was generated by the creator of the universe, I think there are profound consequences.”
A few days ago in response to a question about marriage equality, Ms. Bachmann responded, “It’s not an issue. It’s boring.” This is Bachmann’s way of saying that there are no votes in it for her to keep advocating against marriage equality. It is also a reflection of how far the debate on marriage equality has moved in just a few short years. Ms. Bachmann is wrong in saying marriage equality is not an issue because there are still legislative and legal hurdles to be overcome for full marriage equality in several states, but the basic sentiment that she implies, that talking about marriage equality is not helpful for Republicans, is accurate. This is also borne out by the relative silence on marriage equality from Republican candidates in this year’s election.
Although it may seem obvious now to many that there are few votes to be won by loudly opposing marriage equality, it was less than twenty years ago when a Democrat, an allegedly pro-LGBT President Clinton, signed DOMA and less than twenty years before that the first out gay politician in the U.S. was elected. It has been difficult for the Republican Party to keep up with this pace of change, not least because of an aging base of support that lags behind the rest of the country on LGBT equality and other social issues. The Republicans are still along way from being a party that can be plausibly be said to look like America, but continuing to make tactical realities more important rhetorical red meat for the conservative base is the only way that will change.
Lincoln Mitchell is the national political correspondent for the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell.