Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why Sarah Palin's Family is Fair Game

"I have said before and I will repeat again: People's families are off limits," Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said on Tuesday. "And people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18 and how a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn’t be a topic of our politics."

Noble words, with which I'd happily be first to concur. But no...not until I hear the same principled stance from Republican activists who have made discrimination and fear-mongering a rallying cry and make people like me political props in their campaign of distraction.

The 2008 Republican Party Platform explicitly calls for writing discrimination into the Constitution, seeking both to deny same-sex couples the right to marry and to deprive the courts of their proper role in protecting the civil rights of all citizens from the tyranny of the (shrinking) majority.

Their defense of "traditional" marriage is lined with all the discredited tropes of the waning anti-gay movement. They insist that restricting marriage to heterosexual couples protects "our children's future," although the government neither requires nor recognizes procreative intent or capability as a characteristic of civil marriage. The platform paints a disparaging view of children who grow up "in homes without fathers," while failing to note that the research they cite exclusively refers to the children of heterosexual mothers whose fathers chose not to live up to their responsibilities, not the children of committed same-sex partners. We are meant to ignore that some children of single-parent households turn out just fine (see Obama, Barack) and others have two fathers.

You see, according to Republicans like Sarah Palin, a family like this one is a better place for children than this one. The belief that any pairing of married heterosexual parents provides a stabler, healthier home than any same-sex couple could possibly offer is just not born out by any sort of evidence, at all.

Never mind their foreign policy disasters or the tanking economy -- look out! Here come Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi! Give me a break.

This is not a trivial issue. Palin and her ilk have literally campaigned on the promise to protect America from gay bogeymen (and women). Sure, in an ideal world, Bristol Palin and her circumstances would be irrelevant. They should be. And so should the private lives of millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, taxpaying, hard-working citizens. But when the RNC uses us to scare up voters, I refuse to sit idly by and not point out the egregious hypocrisy of people like Sarah Palin.

So Bristol Palin is 17, pregnant, and scheduled to marry the teenage father. Now, who knows? Maybe these two are genuinely in love and will live a happy, committed life together. It's entirely possible. My grandmother was pregnant (turns out, with someone else's child, my father) when she married her husband, and they're still married 65 years later and raised three kids, two of whom are divorced. But the research shows that pregnant brides are 50% more likely to get divorced, and that's factoring in a heterosexual divorce rate that isn't anything to be proud of.

Here's why Sarah Palin's family matters. You won't find anyone to argue that Bristol was being responsible by getting pregnant while unmarried and still in high school, even if they now assert she's doing the right thing by marrying the charming father. Though McCain aides may protest that the "liberal media" is smearing Palin's family, it was the GOP that first trotted out the Palins as a model to be emulated.

If you agree with Barack Obama that this subject should be off-limits, then you're at odds with James Dobson, whose activist organization Focus on the Family -- note the name -- is at least as political as it is religious. Here's his statement on the Bristol Palin situation.

Now, let's reflect back on his comments regarding the daughter of a sitting vice president who got pregnant outside the bonds of civil marriage.

Seventeen year-old Bristol Palin is about to marry a fellow teenager; they will have full government recognition and protection for a relationship that is, let's face it, a last-ditch attempt to make right a stupid mistake made in a brief moment of passion. Sarah Palin thinks this is just great. Yet compare that to Mary Cheney, who had been in a committed relationship with her partner for 15 years when they made the conscious decision to raise a child. (They're now at 17 years together, 6 years past the average heterosexual marriage duration of 11 years.) Sarah Palin thinks that Mary and Heather deserve no recognition or protection; Mary is the biological mother, so in the unfortunate event of her death, Sarah insists that Heather has no claim to the child. Sarah thinks Heather should not have been allowed to be present in the hospital for the birth, nor should she be allowed to be with Mary in the hospital under any circumstances. The couple, according to Palin, is not entitled to any insurance, inheritance or social security benefits.

Sarah Palin is receiving heaps of praise for supporting her teenage daughter's decision to have a child before she even completes high school and to marry another student who openly boasted on his MySpace profile that he doesn't want kids while simultaneously insisting that Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who had been in a committed relationship longer than Sarah has been alive, deserve no protection or recognition.

John McCain, Sarah Palin's running mate, cheated during his first marriage which ended in divorce.

Gay folk get scapegoated for the political gain and moral failures of uninformed ideologues like Sarah Palin, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and David Vitter. I will heed Barack Obama's call to leave her family alone just as soon as she stops blaming me for everything that is wrong with heterosexual marriage.

Republican, heal thyself.

11 comments:

Lelo said...

Thank you, Andy, for articulating this so well, so logically, and so clearly. I couldn't agree more.

tully said...

"Noble words, with which I'd happily be first to concur. But no...not until I hear the same principled stance from Republican activists who have made discrimination and fear-mongering a rallying cry and make people like me political props in their campaign of distraction."

These are schoolyard ethics, Andy. You might as well whine "he did it first" in the principal's office. If you want to say, "Obama's right- this behavior is wrong, but the Republicans must also avoid this behavior," you would be both ethically coherent and intellectually honest. Or, if you think that it is merely charitable or noble for the kids (who didn't chose their parents' jobs) of candidates to lead lives untainted by politics, then I can take none of Obama's "shoulds" seriously- they may as well be mere fancy.

Andy said...

Uh-huh. As if I have any reason to trust that Sarah Palin will stop exploiting my personal life for political gain.

I get your point. But I'm not saying anything about the Palin family that isn't true; meantime, the Republican party has made a vicious caricature of the lives of gay people and put it at the center of their party platform, and the subtext is that gay people are awful and immoral and a threat and we are guardians of the family. The reality is very different.

Thunder Jones said...

Please excuse my snark, but I'm still waiting for FOX News to resurrect the "baby-mama" tagline that they put on Michelle Obama for Palin's daughter.

tomnatan said...

Obama won't have to go after Palin's family. Everyone else will do it anyway, and he and Biden will look all the better for not doing it. And there won't be an opportunity to ask Palin about it between now and her debate with Biden, because we all know she'll have to study...

Gino said...

"the Republican party has made a vicious caricature of the lives of gay people "

i like gay people, and embrace them as part of my life, and even my family.

but as for viciuos caricatures...
i think we've all seen the footage of pride parades. and these are not GOP sponsered events.

tully said...

There's a difference between Creating caricatures and Responding to caricatures. Your father, for instance, is more likely responding to a caricature when he makes ignorant comments. For goodness sake, Andy, these caricatures are older than this country. Blame ignorance if you like, but are you claiming that Republicans prefer a state of fear by their very nature? Or do you mean something else?

tully said...

There's a difference between Creating caricatures and Responding to caricatures. Your father, for instance, is more likely responding to a caricature when he makes ignorant comments. For goodness sake, Andy, these caricatures are older than this country. Blame ignorance if you like, but are you claiming that Republicans prefer a state of fear by their very nature? Or do you mean something else?

Gino said...

and speaking of mary cheney's right to live as she wishes...

who was it that tried to make her lesbianism a wedge issue?

tully said...

I did. It didn't fit in the platform, so I had to wedge the wedge issue in. That makes it a double wedge.

Gino said...

remind me to give you a double wedgie whenever it is we meet in person.