GOP running for closet on gay issues

By Kyle Melinn

The Republican chairwoman in Kent County found herself a hole to crawl into last week after she uninvited Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for a speaking engagement. Her presumed reasoning? Huntsman supports civil unions.

Huntsman doesn’t support gay marriage, mind you. But since his stance wasn’t a complete blackballing of gay men and lesbians, it wasn’t good enough for Kent County’s Joanne Voorhees, a former state representative from the city of Wyoming. In her e-mail to county GOP members, she wrote that “voters want and expect us to stand on principle and return to our roots.”

To which voters would Voorhees be referring? Ultra-conservative Republicans, the cornerstone of American politics’ endangered species list? Or Democrats, who are secretly hoping Republicans don’t wake up and realize an evaporating minority of voters oppose same-sex couples’ legal rights.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found 57 percent support civil unions. Only 38 percent do not. A CBS poll released last week showed that 67 percent either support gay marriage (42 percent) or civil unions (25 percent). Only 28 percent said gay and lesbian couples deserve no legal recognition.

The state’s high-ranking officials couldn’t buy enough brooms to sweep this Voorhees story under the rug. While a rightfully embarrassed Ron Weiser, new chairman of the state GOP, hurriedly reinvited Huntsman back to Michigan for a couple of state party gatherings, Voorhees walked into a magician’s closet and disappeared, refusing to return reporters’ telephone calls.

On WKAR-TV’s “Off The Record” last week, Weiser danced around the issue, saying it was a local decision. He repeatedly tried to change the subject back to the economy before the reporters gave up.

Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land also picked up the ball and punted it when asked directly about Voorhees’ “return to the roots.”

“I agree with the fact that she gets to make the decision,” said Land more than once, obviously not in a hurry to back up a woman who lives, literally, a few miles from her Byron Center house.

No, taking a political swing at the gay marriage punching bag is no longer as fun as it used to be for Republicans.

The days of George W. Bush and the Republicans’ selling 60 percent of Michigan on this sci-fi argument that our society would crumble if we didn’t preserve the “sanctity of a one-man, one-woman marriage” is disappearing. Only the spacecadet conservatives aren’t seeing it.

In fact, a white paper put out by MDJ&R Strategy Consultants shortly after the Republicans’ continued implosion in 2008 states that unless Michigan Republicans change their message, they’re not on track to win anything in 2010.

Who wrote the report? A former chief of staff for state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, a Republican, who had a part-time gig with the Senate GOP until the MIRS newsletter made this report public a couple weeks ago.

The author, Dennis Darnoi, was conveniently phased out of a job amid the state budget crunch.

Whether they want to hear it from their own or from the outside, the Republicans are on the verge of slipping further behind in 2010, unless they can divorce themselves from this Paleolithic stance.

“One man, one woman, ugga, ugga, ugga” is the uttering of a day long past.

The average folk have more pressing things to worry about right now than to follow the super-religious ideologues’ strange fascination with this bedroom issue.

Same-sex marriage? Who cares? I’m not sure if my job will be around in six months. Same-sex adoption? Who cares? The judge is revisiting my parenting time and my ex is living with some creep.

Two guys living together in a house down the street? As long as they mow their lawn, who cares? I’m hoping I can make my house payment next month.

Not surprisingly, the younger generation is taking the lead on this. In the world they live in, same-sex couples are a regular part of everyday life. The stories and drama of their gay friends, family members and co-workers are becoming more openly shared. More and more, it’s simply not a big deal.

A recent CNN poll bears this out, with 58 percent of Americans 18 to 34 supporting gay marriage . . . not just civil unions, gay marriage.

Weiser isn’t alone. Many Republican politicians wanting to tap into Main Street are changing the subject when asked about civil unions.

It’s as if they’re finding their own closet to run into. (Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write