Biden’s Big Effing Gay Bacchanal
Marriage equality won while everyone was watching. Plus Tucker calls on Elon to release private Twitter DMs.
JVL here: Tim is taking over the Triad today. Just a heads up that tomorrow night will be our annual Festivus livestream—kind of like a Bulwark+ holiday party for us all to get together. Mark it on you calendar now:
Thursday, December 15, 8pm in the East
Grievances will be aired!
Now, Tim Miller is on the mic:
1. DOMA and What Came After
In his singular book about the story behind the struggle for gay marriage, my friend Sasha Issenberg detailed the manner in which President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. He put pen to parchment in the dead of night, following a cross-country flight from campaign stops in Oregon. He was still wearing his showman’s leather jacket and cowboy boots.
There were no cameras present.
That was 26 years ago this past September.
Clinton’s decision to mark this “achievement” with a furtive inscription was unusual, especially given the overwhelming bipartisan nature of the law’s passage: Every single Republican supported DOMA and only 14 Democratic senators opposed it.
Generally a triangulating pol would take this moment to do a victory lap, hold a Rose Garden ceremony in which he dramatically bestows key allies with honorary fountain pens. He’d follow that up with a round of interviews with the religious media or others who might look kindly on the legislation. But that’s not what the White House did for DOMA.
Clinton’s spokesperson at the time tried to spin this choice as a signal of the president’s contempt for the bill saying “he did it at midnight because that’s when it deserved to be signed.”
Such a notion, I’m sure, made the president’s do-gooder staff feel better about their betrayal. But it wasn’t the truth. In reality, he signed the bill at 12:50 A.M. not as a “gesture of disdain” but as an act of shame and fear. An admission that he was codifying a law he knew to be wrong and he was worried how people would react.
In other words, he put himself in a political closet. Refusing to reveal his true feelings, denying the commemoration that such an event might have called for.
But this closet wasn’t just a private shame inflicted upon himself. The shame of the politicians who passed DOMA was imposed on the gay men and women who hadn’t done anything to deserve it, except desire to marry the person they loved.
They were told by their leaders that to stay on the right side of the law they would have to keep that love secret and suffer the painful consequences from their marginalization so as not to make the rest of the country feel uncomfortable. They were told that this type of love was only acceptable if it were whispered about in the wee hours of the night, while dressed in leather.
The contrast between that dark past and the gaiety on display at the White House yesterday was what struck me most about Biden’s signing of the Respect For Marriage Act. The bill itself has some limits. It isn’t perfect. But the message it sent is unmistakable.
The Respect for Marriage Act essentially repeals DOMA, and this repeal wasn’t dumped with the late night trash in the hopes that some wouldn’t notice the change.
It was signed with fanfare. On the White House lawn. With thousands of celebrants.
There was the gay, married Secretary of Transportation, who had been forcibly closeted by that prior administration’s “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” law, standing by the president grinning ear-to-ear. There were the families who had challenged various anti-gay marriage laws, including one couple that had been married by the now vice president in defiance of Prop. 8, present with their children in tow. There were hundreds of LGBTQ advocates (and hundreds more random gays who had an in with the social secretary) braving the cold to enshrine this moment in their memory and on their Instagrams.
This, to me, was the most telling sign of victory. The legal battles may be ongoing. The majority of Republicans in Congress may be behind both the times and their constituents. But there was a larger force than mere legislation at play.
As Born This Way played over the White House loudspeaker, all who watched understood the sea change that occurred. This was not some small-ball procedural fix. It was a celebration that declared in no uncertain terms that in this country our love had conquered their shame.
DOMA would be repealed in the daylight. There would be countless camera (phones). We would dance and be merry. Our nighttime whispers would not be thrust upon us by law, but the private revelries of humans who love as we choose to, with the full recognition of our fellow man.
2. Twitter DMs
Last night the nation’s highest-rated cable news host (and second most prominent Russophile conspiracy theorist) called on Elon Musk to start releasing the contents of private direct messages that have been sent on Twitter’s servers.