The defense of the defense of marriage – and post Prop 8 right-wing rhetoric

by on December 12, 2008  •  In DoMA

With the Democrats having control of the White House and Congress, there won't be any federal marriage amendment moving anywhere in the comEd2ing Congress, and probably no time soon, if ever again. As icing on the cake, its chief sponsor in the House – Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado – was defeated last month.

So the anti-equality crew is reframing the congressional debate as one over whether to save DoMA from future efforts to repeal it.  Toward that end, right wing politics now has a new web page if not a new idea.  The Alliance Defense Fund has launched Protect DoMA. Aside from a northern Virginia P.O. box, Protect DoMA's chief asset appears to be a hunky Latino "model and actor" endorsing its message.

What is most interesting to me about this new angle on the old arguments are the clues that it contains to the right's long-term strategy, coming off their victory in passing Prop 8.

First is the unabashed emphasis on Latino Americans:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation will work to continue to expand our education and mobilization efforts – especially within the Latino community

These folks are doubling down their bet on Latino-American cultural conservatism. Another theme, embedded in the quote below, is Latinos' status as the largest and fastest growing minority in the U.S.  In other words, these are the young people who the right is counting on to disprove the conventional wisdom that as soon as the over-65 set dies off, the young adult demographic will legalize same-sex marriage:

Groups on the Left generally take Latino votes for granted.  But the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is the latest research foundation to document that this dynamic does not apply with respect to marriage and the family.  On the contrary, support for marriage and family within the Latino community runs deep.  This support is expressed when Latinos are given an opportunity to vote on the issue of marriage itself. 

U.S. Census data shows that Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group, representing the largest minority in the country. According to data from 2005, there are approximately 42 million Latinos in the United States, which represents approximately 1 in every 8 residents.  In fact, a majority of children entering high school, workers entering the workforce and newly-eligible voters will be Latino by 2020.

Also interesting to me is what's missing – religious rhetoric.

In the years ahead, will continue to build a broad movement – with a positive message that has mainstream appeal — in order to deliver the margin of victory in the struggle to protect marriage for the sake of our children and grandchildren.   At the same time, we will also continue to develop leaders who can give winsome expression to the timeless values that are essential to the well-being of our nation.

You gotta hand it to them there: Eduardo is nothing if not winsome.

One sign of this post-sectarian rhetorical strategy at work is a phrase that I've started to see on various right-wing sites: "the common-sense definition of marriage."  Not the "traditional" and certainly not the religious definition, but the friendly, unthreatening "common-sense" definition. Sure sounds to me like these folks have gotten a PR makeover; they are seriously trying to sound contemporary, even downright cool.  Like, not your grandfather's anti-gay bigotry.

The umbrella organization behind Protect DoMA – ADF – is probably the leading litigation shop trying to curtail same-sex relationship rights. Although its advisory board is loaded with clergy, it also has half a dozen law professors, including John Coons of U-C Berkeley (emeritus), John Finnis of Notre Dame, and Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard.

This is the face of the future — on the other side.


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