Andrew Sullivan published an astonishing memo, dated 5/11/12, from GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen, who was W's pollster in 2004, and is generally connected to the GOP establishment. He recommends an about-face on gay issues. Here are some of his talking points:1. People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits."2. As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.3. As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government."I wonder if some version of this insight informed Mitt Romney's lukewarm response to the Obama affirmation of same-sex marriage rights. Instead of hitting back with fire and brimstone, he seemed pretty desultory in response. This from Garrett Quinn at Boston.com: "Not only did Romney answer that question with no passion but he repeatedly called his position on the issue 'his preference'." But over at the USCCB, where same-sex civil unions (much less civil marriage!) are declared to be "a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society," well, what happens now? I imagine the GOP will throw its bishop-buddies under the bus. The bishops have devoted a huge amount of energy and cash--many dozens of millions of dollars, at a time when they're closing schools and parishes apace--to shoring up a natural law argument that reduces marriage to a matter of procreation. The standard slander from right-wing apologists is that marriage is either about procreation or it's a matter of mere romance, utterly disregarding the deeper human values of commitment, responsibility, enduring love "for better and for worse," and all the other non-whimsical values that a marriage at its best can embody.Gee, let's see: when the bishops' "religious liberty" initiative was seen for what it was--an attack on contraception that appeared to lots of folks to be an attack on women, the GOP got suddenly quiet. We'll see how many high-ranking republicans stand next to bishops in their "Fortnight of Freedom." And the public credibility of the USCCB takes another blow.Just for kicks, I explored a case that's not exactly parallel, but not far off. Bob Jones University ended its ban on interracial dating in 2000, after a political hubbub when then-Pres. Bush visited the school and was roundly attacked by other Republicans, notably John McCain. Here's what Bob Jones III said at the time: "We're being defined as a racist school. Thats all the media is talking about, he said....We realize that an interracial marriage is not going to bring in the world of antichrist by any means." The USCCB would do well to be careful to think of how its crusade against same-sex marriage is making the Church look to outsiders, and, sadly for many of us, to insiders.
Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).