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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Double Wedged

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2008 at 9:02 AM

The Republican's bigoted gameplan in Harrisburg, I'm happy to say, is falling apart so quickly that it's hard to keep up with it. 

In the issue of City Paper that hits the stands today, I take issue with the dishonesty of Senate Republicans who were backing a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. 

That column will go online tomorrow, but while Republican dishonesty endureth forever, the piece is already out of date in one respect. Even as our print issue was winging its way to the presses, the amendment's original sponsor, Lancaster Republican Michael Brubaker, asked to have the measure tabled indefinitely. This despite the fact that on Monday, a Senate committee voted overwhelmingly to put the matter up for a floor vote

But as the Post-Gazette noted, while the measure was all but certain to clear the Senate, it would "be sent to the House State Government Committee, where it likely wouldn't be acted on anytime soon." The House is narrowly controlled by Democrats, and the chair of the Government Committee, Philadelphia's Babette Josephs, was a staunch opponent of the bill. The bill would almost certainly have died there. 

If you're a Republican, though, the question is: So why not let it?

Most of us lefties suspect the GOP of using these homophobic measures as "wedge issues," designed to stir up a conservative base that has little else to be enthusiastic about these days. If that really was the goal, however, then it hardly matters whether the measure has a chance of passing or not. What matters is putting Democrats in the position of having to kill it.

Had Brubaker not tabled his bill, his colleagues in the Senate would have been able to vote against gay marriage and boast about doing so to their constituents. Democrats would kill the measure, but hey -- that's a campaign issue too. Even if Josephs had sat on the bill, so what? At worst, that just gives them a chance to play the "wedge issue" game down the road again, and plead with voters to get those liberals out of office.

To me, this is the latest piece of evidence in a trend I noted the last time a doomed same-sex amendment came up in Harrisburg: "'nontraditional"'relationships are becoming more acceped [and] Republicans, too, are splintering over these hateful wedge issues."

As same-sex relationships become more common, and less threatening, the wedge issues begin to lose their effectiveness. The problem is especially pressing in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Republicans have long held sway, but voters are socially tolerant. The wedge is increasingly double-edged: If it helps some Republicans in bedrock conservative areas, it hurts them in "swing" counties. Is it any wonder that the GOP's support for this measure has become increasingly half-hearted?

As I said in this space just a few weeks ago:

I don't want to counsel complacence in the face of Republican homophobia, which seems to crop up periodically like an especially dangerous flu virus. But let's take heart that each time the virus appears, our resistance to it seems to increase. Each time the measure comes up, GOP support seems more desultory, as if it's a habit they can't quit but no longer take pleasure from.

That seems to be exactly what has happened. When the GOP brought this thing up a couple years ago, it managed to clear the Senate before getting bottled up by the House. This time, things didn't even get that far. Maybe next year the GOP will save us all a lot of trouble and just smother it in committee themselves, or lose it underneath some smoking-ban legislation or something.

All I'd ask is that NEXT time their hateful agenda collapses, it does with an eye toward my paper's production schedule. 

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