New York Times Fascinated That Republicans Don’t Care That Ken Mehlman Is Gay
The paper of record seems quite intrigued by the fact that the reaction among Republicans to Ken Mehlman announcing his homosexuality has been so muted:
Had a former chairman of the Republican National Committee announced in 2004 that he was gay, it would have been a bombshell. In that hard-fought election year, Republicans and Democrats were rushing to condemn a court for establishing the right to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
Six years later, in a midterm election cycle that is otherwise fierce, campaigns are largely silent on the issue of same-sex marriage — even as two federal courts have issued similar decisions in recent months upholding the rights of gay people to wed. And when Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004 and then became the party’s chairman, said in an interview in The Atlantic this week that he is gay and is working to support a campaign for same-sex marriage, it was met with little controversy.
Even the commentary accusing him of hypocrisy seemed outweighed by people who wished him well, or merely shrugged.
The muted reaction reflects not only changing values in the country generally, but also, more notably, among many Republicans and conservatives.
Polls show acceptance of gays growing among Americans, on a variety of measures. In a Gallup poll in May, 52 percent of Americans said that gay and lesbian relations were “morally acceptable” — the first time that support had crossed what the polling group called the “symbolic threshold” of 50 percent.
Among conservatives, 33 percent agreed, up five percentage points since May 2006. Another Gallup poll in May found that 70 percent of Americans — and 53 percent of conservatives — favored allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
The shift is being driven largely by demographics, as a younger generation grows up with more discussion and acceptance of gay rights.
In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in March 2004, a plurality of Americans under 45 — 35 percent — said there should be no legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships. Forty-five percent of Americans 45 and older said the same. By April 2010, just 24 percent of Americans ages 18 to 44 surveyed said that there should be no legal recognition, and 35 percent of Americans 45 and older said the same.
Like James, my reaction to the whole “Ken Mehlman is gay” revelation yesterday was basically….. meh. I’m long past the point in my life where I care whether someone is attracted to men, women, or both, and I suspect that the polls cited above are evidence of the fact that this is pretty much the attitude that has begun to take hold among the American public. I don’t necessarily agree with those who argue that the story itself wasn’t newsworthy at all, mostly because Mehlman was a relatively high-level Republican leader during an era when the GOP was taking a very anti-gay stance on public policy issues. At the same time, though, I welcome the day when not only someone being gay isn’t news, but when they won’t feel compelled to hide that fact from others because of fear of professional retribution or being socially ostracized.
Yes, there were always be a segment of the population that believes homosexuality is immoral and sinful, but even among that group the “live and let live” philosophy seems to be resonating on some level. Besides, as I’ve said about other issues in the past, the fact that you disapprove of the life that someone lives doesn’t make them wrong for living that life. It’s called freedom, and it includes not caring what people do behind closed doors.