Culture clash: The times, they are a-changin’

ODD DOMINION

Tim Bostic and Tony London led the legal effort to end Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.  Photo courtesy American Foundation for Equal Rights Tim Bostic and Tony London led the legal effort to end Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. Photo courtesy American Foundation for Equal Rights

As we have noted in the past, the Republican party’s traditional focus on the three G’s (God, guns and gays) has long served it well, electorally speaking. By embracing Christian piety and a maximalist interpretation of the Second Amendment while simultaneously courting social conservatives by fulminating against homosexuality and abortion, the GOP has made itself the go-to party for so-called “values voters” across the nation.

Well, as we head into this year’s legislative elections (and next year’s presidential contest), an interesting question is emerging: Can this time-tested model still work if one of the three pillars is no longer effective? Or will the entire strategy, like a three-legged stool, collapse the moment a single support is removed?

Or perhaps we should make that two supports. While guns are still a winning issue for Virginia’s elephants (although it should be noted that Governor Terry McAuliffe’s unsuccessful push for tighter gun laws and recent veto of three pro-gun measures has not seemed to hurt his popularity), the other two-thirds of the formula are on shakier ground.

The efficacy of anti-abortion politics in Virginia has been declining steadily for years. Still, Republicans have attempted to solidify the many restrictions already on the books, including a controversial law mandating that abortion clinics meet strict hospital construction standards. If applied to all existing facilities (as opposed to just new construction), the rule would probably shutter 13 of the 18 clinics currently operating in Virginia. But a recent opinion by current AG Mark Herring reversing Cuccinelli’s take has drawn wide acclaim. Even the reliably conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page opined that “If they had any sense of shame, conservative Republicans would feel some in the wake of [Herring’s] recent opinion about abortion-clinic regulations.”

But the pillar of GOP demagoguery that is teetering most precariously is the party’s anti-homosexuality platform. Poll after poll has shown that a growing majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, and that acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals is widespread (especially among the young). But a large segment of conservative voters, in Virginia and elsewhere, continues to rage against the “homosexual agenda,” and demand a right to discriminate against whomever they wish.

This toxic attitude was on full display at a recent Fairfax County Public Schools meeting, where a debate about adding the words “gender identity” to the district’s nondiscrimination policy devolved into an ugly cacophony of booing and outbursts by conservative activists who had packed the meeting. (Failed House of Delegates candidate Fredy Burgos also garnered loud applause when he called the proposed change “racist” because blacks and Hispanics, whom he labeled “largely Christian,” would not be allowed to discriminate against transgendered students.)

Contrast that scene to the recent church wedding of Tim Bostic and Tony London, the gay couple who initiated the push to overturn Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The men, who have been together over 25 years, said their vows in front of an adoring crowd, beaming happily as Reverend Canon Win Lewis blessed their union, and lauded the couple’s longstanding love and perseverance. “Through this power of love,” he intoned, “our God has been wearing away, bit by bit, the forces of anger and hatred, of domination and fear, of oppression and hardness of heart.”

It’s a lesson that the Republican party should learn, and soon, before it finds itself without a leg to stand on.

Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.

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