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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fighting Bob would be Proud

(Keywords: , , , , , people with a spine)

I've written before of the political courage of Wisconsin's junior Senator, Russ Feingold. Like Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, and the tragically taken Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, Russ proves that the northern half of flyover country produces a lot of politicians who are the real deal. It goes all the way back to the beginning of the century with Fighting Bob LaFollette - even farther if you include Abraham Lincoln.

So it's cheering to see a ray of sunshine in a Reuters article, sadly titled Senate panel OKs gay-marriage ban:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel advanced a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on Thursday as the committee chairman shouted "good riddance" to a Democrat who walked out of the tense session.

"If you want to leave, good riddance," The Senate Judiciary Chairman, Republican Arlen Specter, told Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold, who refused to participate because, he said, the meeting was not sufficiently open to the public.

"I've enjoyed your lecture too. See you later, Mr. Chairman," Feingold told the Pennsylvania senator before storming out of the private room where the meeting took place.

The testy exchange highlighted tensions over the proposal, which seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent states from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Talk about character. Give 'em hell.

Specter claims not to back the ban, but voted for it anyway. He argues that it deserves to be debated by the full senate. But if the senate panel vote is any indication, it's dead. The vote was 10-8, an amendment has to pass on a super-majority of two thirds.

Specter has been a reasonable conservative in the past, but I suspect he caved under pressure to get this out of committee. The GOP has a habit of pretending to care about this sort of thing, while forcing these 'moral values' drafts into doomed votes to keep the issue alive. The next time some idiot tells you that they vote over 'the gay agenda' or abortion, ask them, "How's that been working for ya' - got it illegal yet?".

Jan Frel nails this on AlterNet, with a piece titled, Feingold calls BS on gay-hating placebo politics. Beyond the deadon headline, it provides the text of the proposed amendment; "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." Republicans always say that they're about local control. But they are until they're not. Likewise their opposition to 'big government' - that one fell by the wayside in this NSA domestic spying scandal. What they say and what they support are two different things.

Russ was right to walk out. This isn't government, this is political theater. And it's given me yet one more opportunity to say that I hope, hope, hope he runs for president in '08. I don't think there's ever been a candidate I'd be so happy to support.