The evolution of Tom Ridge - Another member of the Bush team comes out for equality
 

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posted Friday, March 8, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 10

The evolution of Tom Ridge - Another member of the Bush team comes out for equality
by Mark Segal - Philly.com

Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush as well as Pennsylvania's former governor, supports marriage equality. So does former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Ridge was opposed to any nondiscrimination legislation while Governor. He's come a long way and we in the LGBT community should appreciate his evolution. He is among dozens of top Republicans who signed the conservative amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down California's discriminatory Prop 8. Also signing on was Clint Eastwood (sans the empty chair).

My personal favorite of the signees is Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, who is the very definition of 'neocon.' Others who have voiced support are former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and even former First Lady Laura Bush, though she doesn't want her statements broadcast.

For those who have been watching the issue evolve, this should come as no surprise. Marriage equality has become the rallying cry of the LGBT community, primarily because its message is simple: allow people to love. It's an easy message with no ill effects. The far right has tried without success to prove that it causes some form of harm. If you had Gay neighbors and they got married, how would that change your life? You might have to buy a congratulatory card, but that's about it.

A TRUE SEA CHANGE
The more important area is that of public opinion, an area that is rapidly changing. A little over half of Americans support marriage equality. Much of that is due to the public support from President Obama. Now, the African-American community is becoming a close ally in this battle, as is the Latino community. What's the connection between the LGBT community and Latinos? Latinos must deal with hate groups on the issue of immigration, while LGBT people have similar groups bent on destroying marriage equality. So who is still lagging behind on marriage equality? Mostly it's the two R's: Republicans and the ultra-religious. Both face the predicament of losing their followers if they continue to preach the ideals of the 1950s.

Facts speak for themselves, and at times loudly. A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 62% of Catholics support marriage equality. Here's a group that has endured weekly sermons on the sins of homosexuality, in many cases for their entire lives. The same holds true for almost every segment of the population. Love is hard to hate, and spreading hatred isn't as politically popular as it once was. Even Newt Gingrich has stated that his party should start coming around on this issue since public opinion is no longer with them.

I'm not going to attempt to explain the issues before the Supreme Court since the court has taken not one but three cases of marriage equality under consideration, each with its own points. Depending on their rulings, they can change how the law applies to LGBT couples statewide and federally. Pundits and legal scholars are all over the map with guesses on how the court will rule. In the 1980s, while discussing a case where the court ruled against homosexuality, Bowers v. Hardwick, then-Chief Justice Warren Burger told me that justices are not immune to public opinion, and to give the issue time. I believe he was right, and that time is now.



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