Here’s a question: Who cares?

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, April 25, 2015 4:32pm
  • Opinion

What an incredibly stupid question: Would the candidate who has staked a position opposing gay marriage attend the same-sex wedding of someone with whom he or she is close? I suppose the justification for it is that it can gauge whether the politician is hypocritical about the issue, but score one for Ted Cruz, of all people, who replied that it was a silly “gotcha” question, unworthy of a response.

That didn’t stop Rick Santorum, who is basing his probable next presidential run on an appeal to the church-lady vote, just like he did during the last go-around. “No, I would not,” he declared. Meanwhile on the other side of this burning issue to cultural conservatives, we find Marco Rubio, who quickly responded, “Of course I would.” John Kasich says he’s planning to go to one, and Scott Walker acknowledges that he already has … well, he attended the reception, not the actual ceremony, which somehow reminds me of Bill Clinton’s admission that he had smoked marijuana, but “didn’t inhale.”

For the record, Hillary Clinton has done a 180 on gay marriage, ever since the polls show that people, translate voters, also have done a turnaround, a remarkably fast one. According to Pew Research, in 2009, 51 percent were opposed. Now 60 percent approve. That’s in just six years! As we all know, President Barack Obama also has “evolved” in a similar way. It’s a waste of time to even ask a Democrat anymore. It’s never been an issue for most of them from the get-go.

But a majority of Republicans are still against the notion, and some care enough about their candidates’ feelings to ask dumb questions about how hard-line they are. They are still obsessed about whether someone supports laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court may settle that one by summer in deciding whether it’s even constitutional for governments at any level to deny full marital rights to gay couples. Even if the justices do strike down the bans, they won’t dispose of the issue. The intolerant will still passionately care about who loves whom.

Perhaps this is a good time for me to resurrect the suggestion that the best way to really end the controversy over gay marriage is to do away with all marriage completely — at least legal marriage. That way no one faces unequal treatment by government. Of course, we’d retain the religious ritual for those who want that — and for the fashion houses and caterers who make big bucks. But anyone who wants to get legally hitched can do so however and wherever he or she wants. A wedding ceremony would bring no protections and obligations under the law. Those would only result from a civil union. The wedding would become a symbolic commitment; the official civil binding would be the only one that affected taxes, benefits, property, etc.

Another huge advantage is that it would remove this as a political issue. There would be no reason for candidates to weigh in; instead, they could focus their policies on things that really are everybody’s business.

There certainly are plenty of those around. Specific policies about economic matters like income inequality and who pays how much taxes would be worthwhile discussions. Health care and hunger are others. And that doesn’t even touch on the life-or-death matters of foreign policy, defense and national security in dealing with terrorism. Notice I said “specific,” as opposed to the platitudes we usually get.

It’s one thing for a politician to state that he is for prosperity or for protecting this great country. Is anyone against those things? But as the cliche goes, “the devil is in the details.” And these devilish guys go to great lengths to camouflage their detailed ideas in vapid generic superficiality. Heaven forbid any of them would step into a controversy by actually facing up to complexity.

Maybe a good place to begin would be with us in the media. If we don’t ask whether a candidate would go to a gay wedding, he doesn’t have to tell.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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