At least for the Republican Party and its adherents, hate can be a powerful motivator. That's why the Bush administration was pushing so hard for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the lead up to the 2004 elections. That, and of course, this famous directive from Thomas Jefferson: "The Constitution should be a tool for limiting rights and disenfranchising certain populations ... I hope future generations of Americans will use it as such." OK, I made that part up. But that's exactly what Bush and his brain, Karl Rove, want to do - use the constitution to limit rights, not protect them. Not that they thought they could ever really pass a constitutional amendment, but they knew it would get their base out to the voting booths, and help ensure another four years of Bush.
If you'll remember, there were a number of states in 2004 with referendums designed to punish gays and lesbians for wanting to make legal, long term committments to their partners. Most of them passed. And helped keep Republicans in office.
But are we seeing the pendulum swing the other way now? This week, New Hampshire passed legislation making civil unions for gay couples possible. And word on the street is that Eliot Spitzer - governor of New York - is planning to introduce legislation that would legalize gay marriage - which is a step further than civil unions. Four states, including New Hampshire, support civil unions for gay couples. One state - that snake pit of liberal thought, Massachusetts - supports gay marriage. New York, then, would only be the second. I hope New Yorkers will make it happen. Civil unions are a step in the right direction, but as this New York Times editorial notes, marriage affords numerous benefits that a civil union does not.
So, is the pendulum swinging towards tolerance, acceptance, and civil rights for gay men and women in this country? And is hate running for the hills? I think the pendulum is swinging, at least in the blue states, but hate and intolerance will continue to be central to Republican strategies for staying in office. They're what drives the GOP.