Monday, July 18, 2011

Giuliani warns the GOP about making same-sex marriage a key issue

By Richard K. Barry 

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is still thinking about running for president. And as one who has supported civil unions for gays and lesbians but not same-sex marriage, he has been giving some thought about how to position the issue in a way that does the least amount of damage to his potential candidacy.

It seems that the approach he has decided on is that the Republican Party should "get the heck out of people's bedrooms." Here's the entire quote:

I think that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but I think that the Republican Party would be well-advised to get the heck out of people's bedrooms and let these things be decided by states... I think it's wrong, but there are other things that I think are wrong that get decided by democratic vote.

In an interview with CNN's State of the Union, he said that he doesn't see "harm" coming from New York's new law to legalize same-sex marriage, but added that:

I see more harm, however, by dwelling so much on the subject of gays and lesbians and whether it's right or wrong in politics. 

It is interesting to note that despite the fact that Michele Bachmann and her husband have made virtual careers out of opposing rights for gays and lesbians, Michele has used the same "states rights" argument to support, for her, a relatively hands-off approach on the issue of same-sex marriage more recently.

In Giuliani's case, he's got to take an aggressive approach because he's on the record supporting civil unions. Saying the state should stay out of the bedrooms of the nation is consistent with a libertarian position, supported by some in the Republican Party, or a 10th Amendment argument, which is supported by many in his party as well.

In either case, he gets to talk about it while not denying his own position, but also not dwelling on it.

That makes sense for him. It may even make sense for Bachmann if she thinks that culture war issues will be a distraction to the inevitable focus on the economy in 2012, which everyone agrees is the only way to beat Obama.

The formula for conservative electoral success in presidential races is usually some calculated nod to social conservatism that keeps the base happy enough, while not scaring independent voters.

Giuliani gets that he's just far too moderate to keep the base happy. But his comments are the closest thing we have seen to honesty on the part of a Republican when it comes to issues dear to social conservatives.

Look to see the other serious GOP contenders try out language that, however tentatively, begins to go down this path. I'm not suggesting a wholesale rejection of social conservatism, just weasel language that lets them park these issues in order to better focus on the economy.

If they are serious about winning a general election, they don't have much choice.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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