September 23, 2008

Barack Obama and Doug Kmiec

Posted in Civil rights, GLBT issues, Politics at 10:38 am by The Lizard Queen

Politics are a balancing act: opposing viewpoints struggle for recognition and for dominance, and politicians work to find balance between ideals and electability. With that in mind, then, I can understand, intellectually, why, in spite of relatively progressive words spoken at the Democratic National Convention — “I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination” — Barack Obama would have someone like Doug Kmiec stumping for him on his “Faith, Family, and Values Tour.”

But understanding it intellectually doesn’t keep me from being frustrated by it.

Here is some of what Doug Kmiec believes:

As a Republican, I strongly wish to preserve traditional marriage not as a suspicion or denigration of my homosexual friends, but as recognition of the significance of the procreative family as a building block of society.

As a Republican, and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement.

As a Republican, I strongly believe that the Supreme Court of the United States must be fully dedicated to the rule of law, and to the employ of a consistent method of interpretation that keeps the Court within its limited judicial role.

As a Republican, I believe problems are best resolved closest to their source and that we should never arrogate to a higher level of government that which can be more effectively and efficiently resolved below.

As a Republican, and the constitutional lawyer, I believe religious freedom does not mean religious separation or mindless exclusion from the public square.

In spite of all that, he supports Obama. There’s something to that, to be sure — in order to be truly productive, it’s helpful for Presidents and Presidential candidates to appeal to both sides of the aisle. That said, though, I find the fact that this man is being used as an Obama surrogate on this tour troubling. He has been vocal in his support for California’s ballot proposition 8, which will ban same-sex marriage in that state. And while that is far from the only LBGTQ issue worth mentioning — where does he stand on DADT? What about hate crime and/or anti-discrimination legislation? — it is particularly visible at the moment, and so many people feel like Obama is shoving LBGTQ people under the bus. Again, it’s frustrating. As Deeky asks, “how am I supposed to reconcile Obama’s promise of lives free of discrimination, with his tapping of an anti-gay, anti-equality bigot as his messenger in the final days of the campaign?”

Furthermore, I wonder how much good this will actually do. If Michelle Obama is correct in her estimation that young people will have a significant impact on this election, then I’m not sure how effective someone with such traditional views as Kmiec’s will be in drumming up votes for Obama, considering that so much Obama’s appeal is in his message of change, and as a general rule each new generation is more progressive than the one that preceded it.

I guess we’ll see.

Related: Encourage Debate Moderator Jim Lehrer to ask the candidates about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

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1 Comment »

  1. DavidD said,

    Doug Kmiec was denied communion due to his support for Barack Obama, an action for which the Archbishop of Los Angeles later apologized. In fact it wasn’t about just being denied this sacrament. Kmiec also had to sit through a message from the priest in charge of this service denouncing anyone who supports a pro-choice politician. It’s been a while since I read about this, but I noticed this was mentioned in comments on more than one article claiming that his presence at an Obama rally is throwing gays and lesbians “under the bus”.

    This is a story that points out the sort of prejudice that gays and lesbians are fighting, prejudice that says anyone who isn’t 100% with us is against us, that a Catholic with all the beliefs you list is not a good enough Catholic to receive communion, just because he publicly endorsed Barack Obama. It is this demand for conformity that has hurt LBGTQ people. Yet this isn’t mentioned in your article or others like it.

    The experience didn’t make Doug Kmiec any less Catholic. I don’t know how he reconciles supporting Barack Obama with his beliefs that life begins at conception. Maybe he allows that his conscience doesn’t dictate what everyone else’s conscience should be. Somehow Kmiec doesn’t see a contradiction between being a Catholic in good conscience and favoring Obama over McCain, and I’m quite sure that’s not a sign of weakness in Obama’s support for Roe v. Wade, for which Obama endures attacks of favoring infanticide, or Obama’s support for civil unions, for the reasons you quote, which is exactly the same position Hillary Clinton and John Edwards had. I forget why Kmiec is supporting Obama. It’s not because of these positions on social issues.

    I would think Kmiec is going to explain at these rallys why a good Catholic such as he is can support Obama. I don’t imagine that in the course of that he’ll be denigrating LBGTQ rights. Maybe he’ll mention that he prefers civil unions to same-sex marriage, but that’s not the story he’s there to tell. He’ll be telling a story of inclusivity, not anti-anything.

    There is a lot to be said about the judgments involved in saying there’s something wrong in Doug Kmiec being who he is, Barack Obama being who he is and the difficulty of any ideologically pure group electing a president of the US. There are unfounded assumptions in those judgments. There is incomplete information being used for these judgments. Most troubling to me is that these judgments are pushing an exclusivity as a way of furthering a goal of inclusion. Exclusion is human nature. One has to move past that nature to value inclusion. Is that what people want or isn’t it?


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