Democrats and gay activists settle for small victories to avoid big losses.
Many gay activists were publicly disappointed after a legislative compromise to send gay rights issues to interim study instead of debating various bills on the topic this session. They felt that the momentum was behind them, especially since the LDS Church had urged legislators to let non-discrimination ordinances in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County stay in place.
Over the weekend, Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, took to the netwaves to defend their decision to study the issues (video embedded below). It is actually a great piece of local political outreach, because Johnson sounds genuine, which is probably helped by her talking on a Saturday morning, "without a suit coat," in a very poorly-lit living room.
For years, I have wanted the Democrats to fight harder at the Legislature, at least for the sake of political theater. Almost always, my argument boiled down to one simple fact: Democrats have nothing to lose. When the session starts each year, they have already lost, by virtue of the GOP super majority. The best they can hope for is for the Republican leaders to lend an ear and throw them a few scraps.
But here's the thing about the gay rights debate: There something to lose, and they would have lost. As Johnson says, "that's the grim reality of our situation." The zeal for which some conservative legislators wanted to step into the ring with gay rights bills, as well as their own bills to bitch slap SLC/SLCO, became evident when the compromise was a significant topic of discussion in the Senate Republican caucus.
On the flip side, another year of study is another year of Johnson becoming even better friends with Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, who is bringing her eggs from his chickens for her fetus. It's another year of gay Mormons coming out to their parents and putting a personal spin on this debate. It's another year for opponents of gay rights to get to know their gay neighbors as people who happen to be gay. Will things suddenly change after a year of study? Absolutely not. But patience is a virtue for this debate, and anytime small steps forward are made, it would be wise for activists to make sure that they have both feet firmly set in that spot before trying to step again.
H/T to Saintless for the video.