The morning after the local elections of 1990, most of the citizens of San Diego woke up to find that they had never heard of many of the electoral victors. These candidates had shunned all media attention, debates and voter guides. They were hand picked by religious right activists who in turn had quietly organized a massive evangelical based get out the vote campaign in an otherwise, sleepy, low turnout election. The modern era of stealth conservative politics had been born.
To this day, the lessons and legacy of the "San Diego Surprise" live on in various forms. The conservative movement has found that cloaking its true radical agenda within solid pro-family and patriotic messages is a winning formula. The friendly sounding messages of "tax reform" are actually massive tax elimination moves that overwhelmingly benefit the uber-wealthy. But it makes voters feel good when these mega-millions giveaways are bundled with "abolishing the marriage penalty."
The same thing holds true on social issues from reproductive rights to the Clear Skies Act, which is actually a reversal of decades of pollution control progress. But the mainstream sees nary a wolf hiding under the fleece.
The hottest recent target of the Christian Right is same sex unions, be they civil or marriage. But there is a problem. Polls consistently show that the public supports the broad concept. A total of 27 percent of Americans are for outright marriage and an additional 35 percent are fine with the idea of civil unions. Only 27 percent want a ban on both. So if you're a hard right political strategist, what do you do?
You try and split the support by claiming you simply want to keep the domain of "marriage" sacrosanct for a woman and a man. You claim that you are not against gay couples, just gay marriage. But you make darn sure that your real objective is what gets written into law.
Much has been made of the 11 states that voted to ban gay marriage on Nov. 2. What the majority of people do not realize, including most of the voters who cast ballots for these initiatives, is that in seven of these states civil unions and domestic partnerships have now been outlawed as well.
Thomas Oliphant pointed out in the Boston Globe that Ohio's ban goes so incredibly far that it outlaws any legal agreements between a gay couple pertaining to child custody or property rights. It seems the crafters of Ohio's Marriage Protection Amendment were actually employing stealth tactics to ensure that second cousins by heterosexual marriage have more rights to the property and children of a deceased gay person than, say, that person's loving and devoted partner of 25 years. Brazen whitewashes and mischaracterizations of this nature could not possibly be perpetrated by ultra-conservatives at the federal level, could they?
The backers of the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution have repeatedly assured the public, via the media, that the Amendment would allow civil unions. No major media outlet has appeared to question this assertion.
This begs the question, has anybody who believes that it does not outlaw any and all meaningful legal recognition of a gay couple actually read the proposed amendment? Read it for yourself, straight from the folks who wrote it. ( http://www.allianceformarriage.org/ )
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."
Did you catch that? "The legal incidents" of marriage are such things as hospital visitation rights, child custody protection, right of inheritance, employee benefits, etc. In other words, just about everything that makes up civil unions and domestic partnerships will be forbidden territory for a state or the feds to grant.
However, the politicians and pulpit bangers refuse to admit the amendment's intended effects because they know that the truth would doom their goal of entrenching the harshest discriminatory clause in our country's most sacred document since the three-fifths compromise. Hence, another question: Has deceit become a new conservative "value"?