I want to explore an issue that has bothered me for some time: politicians who are publicly pro-choice while claiming to be against marriage equality, aka gay marriage.
As an LGBT activist and former political staffer, I have never been blind to the reality of what many see as anemic support for marriage equality in the US Congress. This has always frustrated me, but I have often put aside these concerns in the interest of the big political picture.
My frustration with the discrepancy in pro-choice support versus support for gay marriage has been compounded when I look at the reality of the numbers. In the 112th congress, 40 members of the Senate and 155 members of the House of Representatives are pro-choice. But only 17 members of the Senate and 57 members of the House of Representatives publicly support marriage equality.
While there is a plurality of congressional members who are pro-choice, most of them don't support marriage equality.
If you're ready to say "duh," bear with me.
Many of us accept that most elected officials are a series of contradictions; we assume that most of them are hypocritical. But this is just one contradiction I am no longer willing to accept, because it directly discriminates against an entire class of people. Their refusal to support gay marriage is not political posturing, it's political destruction.
It goes without saying that this hypocrisy doesn't exist just within Congress; it's just that support for both of these issues is easily quantifiable in Congress. From President Obama to governors and members of state legislatures across the country, pro-choice politicians are lying about what they really believe, day in and day out. I've had enough.
I just don't think it's possible to be truly pro-choice and against marriage equality.
I use the word "truly" with respect to their position on choice because these politicians are either saying they're pro-choice as a political calculus -- and they don't actually believe in a woman's right to a legal, safe abortion -- or they're too spineless to admit they also support marriage equality.
A politician who professes to be fully pro-choice may have any number of motivations for taking such a stance. They can personally believe that abortion is a sin, but their progressive, democratic beliefs lead them to believe that every woman should have the right to make choices for herself and her body.
A pro-choice stance could also refer to a politician's belief that every woman has the right to a safe, legal abortion, as well as convenient access to contraception.
Some even take a pro-choice stance because they have the courage to admit that they are pro-choice because they have a responsibility to defend the law of the land.
These are among the many factors that lead to the development of a pro-choice position, but they all come down to four fundamental principles: freedom, privacy, safety, and autonomy. These principles, when it comes to a woman's right to choose, are ones pro-choice elected officials refuse to concede.
However, when it comes to the freedom, privacy, and choice of two adults of the same-sex getting married and taking advantage of all the rights that come with marriage, these politicians are "evolving" or "just aren't there yet."
It's truly insulting when pro-choice politicians rely on religion to defend their anti-gay-marriage stance. As a pro-choice advocate, these people are essentially saying: no matter what I think personally about abortion, even if my religious beliefs are in direct opposition to abortion, as an elected official, it's not my place to take away a woman's right to privacy, freedom, and autonomy.
But, when it's politically convenient for them, they are more than happy to reference their religion or religious upbringing to justify their anti same-sex marriage position. Somehow, those same religious beliefs are miraculously suspended when it comes abortion.
These politicians are comfortable with a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, yet the idea of two people of the same sex getting married brings out the Jesus in them. It's beyond ridiculous.
While none of this adds up on an ideological level, it certainly adds up on a political one.
I know I'm not talking about anything new, but we really need to stop accepting the excuse that a politician who takes a pro-choice/anti-marriage stand is close-minded, traditional, or adhering to religious beliefs.
They are acting with pure political calculus and nothing else. Or to put it more bluntly, they are lying to protect their jobs. In the process, their conscience goes right out the window, which actually makes their positions much more untenable.
I think that many of us take politicians at their face value because we don't want to believe that they would take a discriminatory position for political reasons.
Frankly, it's much easier for me to respect a truly close-minded elected official who is anti-choice and anti same-sex marriage. At least they are saying what they think in their hearts and minds.
But someone who lies about what they believe in for political reasons, and in the process discriminates against an entire group of people, is much more difficult to respect. Instead of educating such a politician on the issues, I would have to educate them on why it's good for their career to tell the truth and fight for people's rights. I have to share polling data with them to justify why they should follow their conscience.
I'm not blind to political realities. As someone who has worked for seven years in politics, I have constantly reminded activists and donors about being practical -- something I am ashamed of.
These politicians are not secretly plotting at night, trying to find a way to surreptitiously push things through; they're plotting how long they can keep their government paycheck. And they occasionally throw us a bone to keep us quiet.
I'm tired of being reminded of the small victories that politicians supposedly gift us. I don't want to be grateful for the repeal of "don't ask don't tell." There is nothing brave or courageous about repealing a policy opposed by 70 percent of Americans.
And I am not going to be held hostage anymore to what some call "thinking long," because I am gay and should see what is possible and simultaneously unattainable.
Could you imagine telling any other constituency to be patient and "think long?"
Many elected officials will bristle at these thoughts. They'll continue to say: "I'm just not there yet" or "This is the same argument I have with my gay friends all the time" or "I'm evolving!" or "I grew up in a traditional home!"
And my personal favorite, "I believe this should be dealt with at the state level."
My response to that specific excuse is, "Great, I believe in states rights as well. As a member of congress, you are required to have residency in the state you represent. As a voter in that state, what is your position on marriage equality? Do you want your state legislature to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriage? Would you vote for a statewide initiative allowing for same-sex marriage?"
Would these same elected officials ever go into a town hall meeting with their senior citizen constituents and justify something as contradictory and damaging to them as George W. Bush's inane proposal to privatize social security?
They wouldn't dream of saying to a senior citizen, "I want you to have steady, uninterrupted social security benefits and I think we can accomplish that by having each of you make investment decisions for yourselves."
Yet, they make equally contradictory arguments to their LGBT constituents everyday.
So next time a pro-choice, anti-marriage equality politician or candidate asks me for my support, I'm not going to get upset, or even waste my time making a thoughtful argument about why they should support marriage equality.
I'm going to do exactly what they do to us and say, "Sorry, I'm just not there yet."