I count among my family and friends people all across the political spectrum. I don’t mean that I have a crotchety old uncle who has never voted for a democrat in his life, but he’s family so we tolerate him anyway; or that I have a neighbor I barely talk to who has a Romney bumper sticker — I mean I have several loved ones and friends, people who attended our civil union out of love for us (even though our relationship made them uncomfortable), people who celebrated the birth of our son and who adore him as much as we do, people I honestly respect and admire, who are staunch conservatives. As the election season heats up and the campaign gets increasingly negative, and the populace seems ever more polarized, I confess that it’s sometimes hard to recall that respect and admiration. I try to always be civil and respectful in political debates, and remember that the people I am sparring with are friends and colleagues, but it’s hard because the critical issues in this presidential election are so personal, if you’re not on my side, you are not just against my candidate: you are against me, my gender, my family, my lifestyle, and my planet.
A lot of the conservatives I know say they vote Republican because they believe in small government and they care about the economy, and they don’t pay too much attention to the social issues. I care about the economy, too, but I can’t afford not to pay attention to social issues, because the G.O.P.’s position on social issues is a personal attack on everything I hold most dear. Think I’m being overly dramatic? Here are concrete examples of what I mean:
1. Marriage Equality
Romney and Ryan both support amending the U.S. Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. That is, they would outlaw my marriage. How can I not take that personally? Penelope and I have jumped through so many hoops to make our family secure for ourselves and our kids — by joining in a registered domestic partnership in Chicago in 1998, by having a civil union in Vermont in 2001, by marrying in Vermont in 2009, by making sure both of us were listed as “parent” on Hank’s birth certificate, by doing a second-parent adoption of Hank in 2011, by keeping our wills, advanced health care directives, and durable power of attorney documents current — how could we dream of voting for a ticket that wants to unravel all that we have built? And honestly, how could our friends and family dream of doing that to us through their votes, no matter how sluggish the economy?
2. Employment Discrimination
Penelope and I are both working mothers, and our family is very dependent upon both of our incomes. Therefore, I am troubled by the G.O.P. platform on employment discrimination on two fronts: equal pay and discrimination based on sexual orientation. First, Romney won’t go on record as supporting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first legislation that President Obama signed into law, which extends the statute of limitations to give women a fair opportunity to challenge pay discrimination in court. Second, Romney does not support including sexual orientation and gender identity within the protections of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In 29 states, people can be fired from their jobs just for being gay, and they have no recourse to sue for wrongful termination. I am lucky enough to live in one of the other 21 states, but most Americans are not so fortunate. Again, how could I support a ticket that doesn’t support my right to get paid fairly for the work I do, or that would have me live (and work) in the closet out of fear that I could be fired because of who I love?
3. Reproductive Rights
Since Missouri Congressman Todd Akin’s cataclysmic comments on “legitimate rape” last month, there has been a lot of press about the G.O.P.’s platform and how it would ban abortion without exception for rape, incest, or even to save the life of the mother. Now, thankfully, my hard-fought pregnancy was very much wanted and expected, and I’ve never had to face the agonizing choice of whether or not to have an abortion — but many, many women are not so lucky. (Also, I am just now realizing that the results of my prenatal testing are not yet in, so perhaps I had better not count my chickens….)
Reasonable minds are always going to differ about abortion, but the G.O.P.’s prurient interest in the goings-on of our uteruses doesn’t stop there: both Romney and Ryan support “Personhood” amendments that would define life as beginning at conception. (Romney told Mike Huckabee so last October, here; and Ryan infamously co-sponsored with Akin a federal bill that would have done the same.) Maybe life-beginning-at-conception doesn’t sound so bad to you, but make sure you’ve thought it through. If the fertilized blastocyst has all the rights of a full-fledged human being, your IUD, or, fellas, your girlfriend’s birth control pills, are suddenly illegal, because they prevent that little blastocyst-citizen from implanting in the uterus (aka “murder”). Maybe you are having trouble conceiving, and you’ve been saving up for years to afford IVF — too bad: that procedure is also illegal.
I’ve been on birth control pills at several times in my life for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to be free to cat around with men, and our own dear Hank was conceived by IVF, so again, how could I support a ticket that, while ostensibly all about small government, wants to legislate intimate decisions which rightly should stay between me, my wife, and our doctors? How could these friends of mine who are so sweet to Hank and so accepting of our family vote for a party that would so threaten our ability to have future children?
4. Climate Change
Two weeks ago, listening to highlights from Romney’s energy plan on NPR made my blood boil, because it was so over-reliant upon fossil fuels and did not even acknowledge the specter of global warming. Last week at the Republican National Convention, he added insult to injury by openly mocking climate change when he said, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans” (pause for smirk and eye roll) “and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” I’m sorry, but that was unforgivable.
Reasonable minds can (and forever will) differ on abortion, but there is no longer any legitimate intellectual debate on the issue of climate change. A few biased “experts” bankrolled by big energy corporations notwithstanding, 97% of American scientists believe that global warming is real and that it is caused by human activity. Here in Vermont, most of us have no doubt that global warming is real: the evidence is all around us. In 2011, we had two 500-year floods, defined as a flood with a 0.2% likelihood of occurring in any given year. Think about that: a 0.2% chance, and we got hit with two of them! Season after season of mild winters are decimating our ski industry and our maple syrup harvest, both of which are critical to our state’s economy, and even more critical to its identity. Here in Vermont, climate change is not a punchline.
If you believe in global warming, you know we can’t afford an administration that doesn’t care about healing the planet. A Romney presidency won’t do me and my family any good if it doesn’t make a meaningful effort to reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and to reverse the environmental damage caused by climate change, something Romney has shown no interest in doing. I care very deeply about the world my children will inherit, and I cannot imagine voting for a man who apparently thinks environmentalism is a joke.
There: I’m done. There are other reasons I won’t be voting for Romney, but that was never in doubt: this post is about why I hope the people who care about me and my family won’t vote Republican, either, because your vote will have a very real, very personal impact on my life. I have tried to be respectful, and I’ve tried to post links to authority for any assertions of fact. If you leave a comment, please do the same.