Twelve Gen-X Republicans Who Will Have Some Explaining To Do Some Day Soon

Dirty_DozenThe worst day of my six years in the legislature was also the last day of my last session: June 27, 2008.

This was the day that the Senate passed SCR 1042, which referred to the ballot a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The change was unnecessary and strictly political. Arizona law already forbade such marriages, so the referendum ultimately had little practical effect other than to poison the public dialogue to advance the agenda of some sick and cynical people.

I could go on for a while about the ugliness that led up to 1042’s passage, like the promises that leadership and rank-and-file Republicans broke with the legislation’s opponents so that the bill could advance, the bizarre glee of the measure’s supporters (this did not include lobbyist Cathi Herrod, who continually bore her permanently sour countenance as she watched from her command post in the gallery), and the overall bigotry behind the whole thing. Suffice it to say, supporters of the bill went through a lot of trouble to get this passed. One could admire the parliamentary skill at play here if only it was about something useful like fixing potholes or building a hospital.

The bill got the votes of every single Republican present save two: Representatives Jennifer Burns and Pete Hershberger, both of Tucson. Burns had already announced that she was not running for reelection. Hershberger went on to lose a Republican Senate primary to the famously grumpy Al Melvin. If this issue was a factor, it was only one of many as Melvin had beaten another well-regarded moderate Republican in a primary for the same seat 2 years before. Based on my subsequent conversations with him, I think I can safely say that Pete has few if any regrets about any of this.

It would be easy to dismiss the passage of this as the act of a bunch of frightened old people who were intimidated by a modern world that they no longer understood were it not for the fact that twelve legislators under the age of 40, all Republicans, three in the Senate and nine in the House, enough to change the final outcome, were among those who voted for this. In other words, people who should have had an eye to the future rather than the past supported this even though they knew better.

At the time, I remember saying that the folks under 40 who voted for 1042 were all going to live to feel foolish about their vote. Society was moving in the opposite direction, and the future would not look kindly upon those who stood in the way of progress. We were people who all grew up around folks of our parents and grandparents’ generation who lived through the days of legal segregation. We would hear the lame excuses of older people who told us that while they all knew that the way that African-Americans were treated was wrong, they just had to go along with it in the name of expedience. As usual, evil triumphed because so many ostensibly good people found excuses to do nothing. The fact that the older generation was still (and is still) making excuses many years later indicates that they were embarrassed by their part in allowing it to continue.

Despite the court decision, the debate over same sex-marriage in Arizona is by no means over. Opponents have made it clear that they will continue to fight, but they are rapidly looking more like the Japanese holdouts who were still waging war from caves in the Marianas years after the surrender. It is clear where the issue is going, and it is happening much faster than even the most hopeful among us ever thought it would.

This was a very different issue than most of what we dealt with in the legislature. Unlike our arguments about taxation or whatever, this was one where, as what happened with SB1070 two years later, the legislature singled out one constituency for stigmatization, as the folks to blame for the problems the rest of us were having. They targeted our fellow human beings for crass, cynical and craven reasons. They all knew exactly what they were doing.

This is the part where someone says “Hey Tom, that was 6 years ago. Why still hold a grudge?” The reason is simple. I have seen nothing in the intervening time that shows that any of these folks have regret over their vote in 2008. Based on the fact that three of these individuals: Senators Adam Driggs, Rick Murphy and Michele Reagan, recently voted for the clearly anti-gay SB1062, it is safe to say that they still think that political considerations trump the dignity of our neighbors. So far, none of these individuals has had a George Wallace moment where they admit that they were wrong.

Now that it is clear that they are on the wrong side of history, they all better start thinking up what lame excuses they are going to be making. Their grand-children’s generation is sure to ask questions.

3 thoughts on “Twelve Gen-X Republicans Who Will Have Some Explaining To Do Some Day Soon

  1. Yes. I suppose this is about the harshest you can get without resorting to vulgarity or references to WWII Germany.

    When Bush ran against gays in 2004, I felt genuinely afraid at times and made a fool of myself challenging the GOPS in Sierra Vista on the subject.

    I was appalled when SB1070 etc passed and watched as normally sane people like my aging dad fell victim to its spell. It lasted until I showed him an NPR story on SB1070’s origins.

    That said, this is my favorite part of the piece:

    “…the legislature singled out one constituency for stigmatization, as the folks to blame for the problems the rest of us were having. They targeted our fellow human beings for crass, cynical and craven reasons. They all knew exactly what they were doing.”

  2. What a bunch of hooey. Everyone has their opinion about things. Just because these legislators did not agree with the writer or with what some unelected judges have to say does not mean they are targeting people or are being hateful. After all, the PEOPLE of Arizona voted against gay marriage. Obviously someone’s vote no longer counts because it will ultimately be overturned by judges if the democrats don’t like the way a vote went no matter what the majority think. It’s a disgrace is what it is. Stop vilifying people just because they do not agree with your agenda.

  3. Ms. Wishman,

    I happen to know that some of these legislators did agree with the writer on this issue, but they believed that gaining short-term political advantage or maintaining solidarity with their caucus was more important than standing up for their fellow citizens. This was my primary frustration with this.

    As I said, the issue was entirely political. The bill was introduced so that the Senate President could make a splash in an upcoming congressional race, then withdrawn once he realized, among other things, that it potentially hurt him in that district. The issue was only revived later by conservatives who wanted to retaliate for a bi-partisan budget deal that the same Senate President successfully put together a little over a week earlier. As I said, there was no public policy purpose for this, because same-sex marriage was already illegal, only politics and petulance. Yes, we all have our opinions about things. Some of us, however, try to avoid making a point of punishing other people for being different.

    You are right to say that this won at the ballot box. Of course, another attempt to pass this sort of thing failed in 2006. Having it pass by popular vote does not make it fair or constitutional, and if we put other civil rights issues to a popular vote, it is damn likely that separate-but-equal would still be the law in most of the South. Beyond this, consider that public opinion is rapidly changing on this issue, but the most dedicated opponents of marriage equality continue to fight it.

    As for vilification, I find this particularly ironic when one considers the rhetoric behind this issue. I was merely calling people out on a vote that they made. The vilification comes from people attack the dignity of fellow humans for sport and political advantage.

    As I said, public opinion is changing on this. Even Senator Reagan, one of the folks portrayed above, has made a show of respecting gay rights, without admitting that she was ever wrong, now that she is running statewide. Marriage equality will be the law of the land some day soon, and folks will eventually wonder why we were ever arguing about it.

    So I will ask you what I asked folks back in 2008: Twenty years from now, what will you tell people about where you stood on this and why?

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