In 1948, the Democratic Party found itself divided over the issue of racial integration. Democrats, primarily of a southern persuasion, who supported Jim Crow laws formed a short-lived splinter group known as the States’ Rights Democratic Party, the charming slogan of which was Segregation Forever! Its members were known as the Dixiecrats.

Today, the Democratic Party stands to become just as divided over the issue of gay rights, and perhaps more specifically, gay marriage. As our most recent presidential contender, John Kerry, runs away from the gay marriage issue like Bush from a drug test, more and more Lefties are openly questioning the wisdom of championing gay rights as part of the party platform, largely leaving the liberal debate over the issue with two equally unappealing options: continue the (already diffident) support of equal marriage rights in a similarly timid and almost embarrassed manner, or drop the Dems’ support from the platform altogether, leaving the entire national discourse on the matter between those fighting for their rights and the virulent antagonism of their most vocal opponents. The option that’s missing, that’s always missing, is the uncompromising support of the LGBT community in their struggle for full equality. That this seems to be outwith the fortitude of the Democratic Party is indicative of the increasingly fair charge that they are positioning themselves right into irrelevance.

Democrats who refuse to support equal rights for gays, including gay marriage rights, are the modern equivalent of the Dixiecrats, although a more appropriate portmanteau for these socially conservative Dems is Phobocrats, since their bigotry isn’t contained by region. (Unfortunately, homophobia is to be found everywhere.) The constant arguments over “gay marriage” versus “civil unions” betrays their comfort with the all-too-familiar notion of separate but equal. Many of these same people would readily concede that the realm of the sacred is not the province of government, yet they conveniently ignore the intrinsic conflict of a government-sponsored protection of the “sanctity” of marriage. Religious marriage ceremonies are sacred. Civil ceremonies are not (necessarily), yet they are still marriages in the eyes of the law. Such semantic tunnel vision also ignores the growing number of religious institutions who will perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples; I attended a mass same-sex wedding at a church in Chicago ten years ago. It’s nothing new; what is new is the debate about legally recognizing the union of the participants. Determinedly fixating on keeping the discussion focused on a debate about the sacred, rather then about equal rights, is becoming gradually more obvious as the thin excuse for supporting full equality that it is.

Only the Phobocrats continue to insist on the need to acknowledge and respect the sanctity of marriage, with little concern for the simple reality that changing the definition of marriage in no way undermines its sanctity. Only the Phobocrats continue to insist that the militant gays and their supporters clamor exclusively for marriage, when the reality is that the Dems’ refusal to enact legislation providing for civil unions long ago has forced the LGBT community into challenging the constitutionality of state marriage laws. What can be expected of people who have no champion for their rights in Washington, or in state government? The idea for civil unions has been there for the taking by any party who had the guts and the belief in full equality for decades. That the people who would benefit were continually and wholly ignored (and still would be, sans challenges to state marriage laws) is not the responsibility of a radical gay agenda, but the fault of every straight politician and voter who happily and contentedly took advantage of the rights and benefits afforded them by marriage while never giving a second thought to what was being denied their fellow gay Americans. It was the complacency of the Phobocrats that compelled the very challenges for marriage equality they now lament. And from whence did that complacency spring? I suppose one doesn’t fight for something in which one doesn’t believe.

To wit, a recent diary at dKos outlined the author’s opinions of “the impact of gay marriage” on three issues: voter turnout, the Dem coalition, and Democratic values. Although the entire thing was infuriating, and ignores that the framing (or lack thereof) of the Dems’ support was in large part to blame on the first two issues (no doubt because the party is riddled with Phobocrats who believe this is somehow a “special rights” as opposed to a civil rights issue), the third point really ticked me off big time.
Committed dems are looking for the values of the Democratic party. I see, over and over again, that "If we don't stand for something, we stand for nothing." I agree 100 %. However, the search for values is NOT a suicide pact. A value like "equality" can be achieved by many approaches. In particular, [civil unions are] equality, with a name change. Choosing and promoting a clear issue is important. However, we must also use sensible choices to decide WHERE to stand. [Civil unions are] just as principled as [gay marriage], and a clear statement that this is good would clarify matters nicely.
Well, no. Full quality cannot be achieved by many approaches. There is only one approach to guarantee full equality and that is the guarantee of equal rights. Now, if, as has been done with some success in several European countries, we want to change the law so that all unions must first be civil (that is, a government issued recognition of the intent of the couple, much like civil marriages now), and religious ceremonies cannot replace this process, but instead would be performed in addition to the civil union, with each church marrying whom they please according to their own bylaws (as they do now), that would be fine (and preferable, as far as I’m concerned). But to give heterosexuals the opportunity to have their union legally recognized in a church ceremony, but not extend the same rights to homosexuals, is decidedly not equal. And not only that, it’s religious oppression, which I’m surprised doesn’t bother more liberals. We complain about the lack of liberal Christians, but when there’s a group who wants to celebrate diversity by offering gay marriage, the Phobocrats have little concern about the suppression of their religious freedom.
The many gay members of the Democratic party are to be commended for their great passion for this issue, which is naturally very important to them.

As a democrat, I am NOT willing to give up public schools, Social Security, progressive taxation, environmental progress, science and all other democratic values for this one issue. I put it that way SPECIFICALLY because this is the request: We go the way of [gay marriage]. This is not just a request, this is a demand by many of the strong supporters. If we do that, we lose election after election.
Two more telltale traits of the Phobocrat—the assumption that only gays support gay marriage equality and the ridiculous belief that gays (and/or their supporters) care singularly for this issue, at the expense of every other progressive issue. (Note that the author also made absolutely no reference to abortion rights, access to birth control, or any other women’s issue, which is another Phobocrat characteristic—a disdain for gender politics of any kind as secondary.) I wonder if this author has ever bothered to read a gay-authored blog. I can think of not a single one that solely advocates gay marriage (or civil unions) as the single most important issue facing the country. Nor can I think of a single one that would not be willing to compromise on civil unions as a starting point, but instead, as the author states, demands gay marriage or nothing. As I said earlier, were civil unions being nationally championed by the Democratic Party, gays and lesbians wouldn’t be forced into marriage challenges on the state level.

The biggest mistake the Dems made during the last election cycle was allowing gay rights to be framed by the Right, who turned it into the antithesis of a moral value. There’s nothing more moral nor more resolutely American than the struggle for and a belief in equal rights. That liberals are manifestly unable to inextricably link the oppression of gays with an immoral and anti-American attitude is, I’m afraid, less the result of a biased media, a reluctant electorate, or the Dominionists’ moral rectitude than liberals’ own collective failing to be effective supporters of their gay friends. And I fear the reason is because there are many among our ranks who simply aren’t willing to address their own latent (or not so latent) homophobia. They fear the rest of America will never change their minds, that we will always lose, because of what they find within themselves.

These are the Phobocrats, and they have not learned the lessons of the past. They see equal rights for gays as part of the future, but refuse to acknowledge their own complicity in keeping us from ever reaching that day.

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