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Socarides writes: "On Thursday morning, the head of one of the world's most admired companies, Tim Cook, of Apple, announced that he is gay. Although not entirely a surprise, Cook had guarded his privacy."

Tim Cook. (photo: unknown)
Tim Cook. (photo: unknown)

Tim Cook and the End of Gay Rights as a Wedge Issue

By Richard Socarides, The New Yorker

30 October 14


n Thursday morning, the head of one of the world’s most admired companies, Tim Cook, of Apple, announced that he is gay. Although not entirely a surprise, Cook had guarded his privacy. As he put it in a piece for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now,” adding pointedly and poignantly, “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” Cook instantly became the most prominent openly gay C.E.O. in history.

Cook’s announcement is one of many signs that gay rights is no longer an automatic wedge issue in American culture and politics. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to review appellate court rulings that overturned gay-marriage bans, a move that brought marriage equality to more than a dozen new states. The news has been almost all good (with some notable exceptions, such as the continuing discrimination in Africa and other parts of the world). But, historically, an intense news focus on gay rights and same-sex marriage has usually been followed by some sort of backlash, often felt during national elections. For example, in 2004, President George W. Bush won reëlection at least in part because his political operatives drew conservative voters to the polls in swing states by placing gay marriage on the ballot in the form of state constitutional amendments. Further back, President Bill Clinton, during his 1996 reëlection campaign, was so worried about being portrayed as favoring marriage rights for gays that he signed the Republican-sponsored Defense of Marriage Act. (I was an adviser to Clinton at the time.) That same year, his opponent, Senator Bob Dole, returned a contribution from a gay Republican group because he did not want to be seen as linked to its agenda. And, in 2008, then Senator Barack Obama walked back his previous support for marriage equality in order to run for President as a candidate opposed to gay marriage. It took him until May of 2012 to publicly say that he personally supported marriage equality, in an announcement whose timing was forced by Joe Biden. Even then, Obama was said to be taking a big risk.

Not this year. When I asked Steve Elmendorf, a longtime Democratic strategist and former senior congressional aide, where the issue of gay marriage was playing in this year’s midterm elections, he replied, “Frankly, nowhere.” Fred Sainz, the communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay-rights organization, answered the same question by saying, “Exactly the way we want it.”

Marc Solomon, the national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, said, “It’s been fascinating in that so much has happened on the marriage front, with almost no peep from electeds who are in tough races who oppose us.” (Solomon is the author of a forthcoming book called “Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won.”)

In part, this is simply the result of a big shift toward gay rights in public opinion. National polls now consistently show that fifty-five per cent or more of respondents support same-sex marriage. But something more may be at work. The issue may no longer help opponents of gay rights to win elections, even those who rely on conservative support. Jeremy Peters, who covers Congress for the Times, observed in an e-mail that most conservative Republicans are “avoiding the question.” Peters added, “There were some outliers, of course, like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, who reacted very strongly to the Court’s decision and said they would continue to fight ‘activist judges.’ … But most Republicans are adopting what they see as a do-no-harm strategy: Don’t advocate for same-sex marriage, but don’t do anything to actively oppose it either.”

Will this trend continue or grow stronger during the 2016 Presidential race? It is in national elections that gay marriage has, in the past, most dramatically played a part. But now, with almost all Democrats in favor and most Republicans hoping to avoid the issue, things may be different. Could we even see a Republican Presidential nominee like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush supporting same-sex marriage? The answer is probably yes, even if it might take until after the primaries.

Vin Weber, a prominent Republican Party strategist and a former member of Congress from Minnesota, told me in an e-mail that there has been “a remarkable change”—one he observed closely in his own state, where members of the G.O.P. “have not wholesale embraced the cause of marriage equality. But they’ve moved essentially to a position of functional neutrality on the issue.” It is the kind of tectonic movement that the Supreme Court may be looking for before it is willing to rule definitively in favor of a national same-sex-marriage right.

Tim Cook’s coming out may be the harbinger of another chapter for the Republican Party, as it looks to its traditional constituencies in the corporate world and Wall Street and finds, increasingly, executives who are not afraid to let them know that they are at odds with the G.O.P.’s position on gay rights. Brian Ellner, a public-relations executive who was heavily involved in the New York campaign for marriage equality—which was strongly supported by senior leaders in the financial-services community—told me, “The incredible velocity of marriage wins and rising public support for equality has rendered it a non-issue in most states.” More important, Ellner added, “Opposing equality is no longer a wedge issue. It’s a loser.” your social media marketing partner


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+14 # Farafalla 2014-10-30 21:49
+14 # margpark 2014-10-30 21:52
Gay marriage and heterosexual marriage has not been a problem except for laws that only allow such and such. It would simply be a matter for churches. Some would allow gay marriages and some would only allow heterosexual marriages. Not a problem. But hospitals and other places who only allow relatives allow heterosexual husband and wives to visit a poor very sick or dying patient. And there are tax laws favoring husbands and wives. Which is exactly why courts have to rule in favor of gay marriage. If there were no laws affecting marriage the courts would not be ruling so. I am in favor of gay marriage but that is why courts are ruling for gay marriage.
+16 # caphillprof 2014-10-31 05:49
It's the churches that we can do without. They have no role in civil marriage.
+1 # DavidtheLiberal 2014-11-01 10:13
Caphillprof, you are EXACTLY correct.
Marriage is a legal contract. The State only has an interest in the pecuniary affairs of the marriage, (inheritance, tax status, property ownership) and in the well being of any children in the relationship, whether natural or adopted.
The State has no stake in whether the sex of the partners is opposite or the same.
+21 # tomtom 2014-10-30 23:51
The only people on earth who oppose same sex marriage, don't have good friends of the same sex who love each other. Anyone who does, knows that love is healthy and rightious. The anti-love/pro-h ate folks are one sorry lot. Make yourselves useful and stop wasting your life with bad attitudes.
+12 # Blackjack 2014-10-31 00:19
Well, there you have it. . .the REAL reason that Repukes may be warming up (pun intended)to gay marriage is because the big guys with the big money are not opposing it. Gotta keep the bucks rolling in and if sucking up (again, pun intended) to the moneyed gentry is what it takes, then that's just a cost of doing bidness.
+7 # bmiluski 2014-10-31 11:10
And it also proves what hypocrites republicans really are.
+1 # skeeter 2014-10-31 01:00
O M G............ur WHAT??? I'm turning in my phone:) ......just kidding:)oxox d
+3 # MindDoc 2014-10-31 01:39
I think it would be a shame if the media froths it up as THE big issue to which the majority of voters will rally around (maybe even displacing Ebola or the world or our Congressional shambles).

People are celebrating, perhaps a new age on several levels, but a new reality. Industry, and voters too, don't like ridicule or discrimination. R e s p e c t and role models are always welcome.

I see how this combines nicely with the direction of the Pope, in terms of stigma and acceptance (a bit more). It is interesting to note a cumulative nibbling away of "the emperors' clothes', meaning the lies via the oligarchs' media. The ads. It's clearly getting harder to win election on (blatantly) anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-worker platforms, while scaring folks sufficiently from having them look at the alternative - the 'leftist liberals', science, humanism...

So my reaction was/is: I think the "wedge" issues which interest the human-people demographic are healthcare, tax fairness, and having our country living up to the American ideals which can (and once did) bind us together. Great parks, infrastructure, water, air....respect.

I am watching the spin-meisters twisting and bending like curve management on a downhill bobsled race. This article, to me, reflects the politics while dissecting the costs and benefits. But I think the Pope has more influence than an article (still, maybe) and attitudes are changing. But politics, no. Votes.What's *today*'s 'wedge issue'? Tomorrow's?
+1 # 2014-10-31 06:46
So what's the big deal?

Announcing that one is gay is "old hat" now.
+6 # cwbystache 2014-10-31 06:56
why, no gay would EVER wear an "old" hat! ... unless it were retro, which would be "cool" instead of dated.
+14 # fredboy 2014-10-31 06:59
Good for Tim.

I've had great gay friends throughout my childhood, school and college days, and my career. When I think back, I realize they were all nice, bright, kind and empathetic souls--good people.

The people who have always creeped me our are the hateful, frightened losers who not only hate gays but hate just about everyone. Amazed that Americans keep electing such shit to office and humbly work for them, taking their abuse.
+10 # babalu 2014-10-31 07:09
Let's hope the Republicant party moves away from ALL THEIR HATE-FILLED stances. But then what WOULD be their platform. They might have to come up with something positive!
+6 # fredboy 2014-10-31 09:28
Amazing that Abe Lincoln said "With malice toward none, with charity for all."

Current Repugs have completely flipped Lincoln's party--anti-emp athetic, vicious, a celebration of hatred.
+8 # Citizen Mike 2014-10-31 07:43
It is nice to see that knee-jerk hatred against a harmless minority behavior is winding down. An exec's personal life details do not make a relevant issue. I am more interested to know if he treats his employees fairly and sells a good product at a good price.
+1 # fredboy 2014-10-31 09:30
I think it's time for more gay leadership at the local, state, and national levels.

While I realize there will be exceptions, most gays I know and have known had far more compassion, strategic wisdom, and courage than most. As we are currently deplete of those values throughout the land, it's a great time to step up and lead.
+2 # bmiluski 2014-10-31 11:13
Sorry fredboy, but most gays I know are just like the rest of us shmos. No better, no worse.
-2 # John Mortl 2014-10-31 12:20
Celebrating our so called tolerant society is more than a bit premature when most holocaust sceptics are forced to stay in the closet for fear of loosing their job and other forms of blatant discrimination.
+1 # Phillybuster 2014-11-02 11:57
Maybe it's because they are lose thinkers who don't know how to spell.
+3 # djnova50 2014-10-31 14:13
I don't care what Tim Cook's sexual orientation is. I have an iMac. My first Apple computer was a Macintosh LC, with a whopping 68k hard drive!

I don't oppose gay marriage. I oppose all marriage. But, I'm not a divorce lawyer. With marriage contracts, a couple could still meet, fall in love, the who nine yards. But, the difference is that at the end of the contract, say 5 years, the couple would have the option to renew the contract, or not. Divorce would be a thing of the past.
0 # Phillybuster 2014-11-02 12:00
All legal marriages are contracts.
+4 # jwb110 2014-10-31 14:46
For those of you who have not been to D.C., it is about the Gayest city in the US. San Francisco doesn't come close to D.C.
Albeit the nations capitol a large part of gay community is way in the closet because they either are in the GOP side of the political game. The rest of them do hair for the wives of the Congressmen and set up the dinners to raise money and do the flowers and decorate homes. They are integral to the functioning of D.C. I have no real like for those who are turncoats but hell, everyone has to make a living.
This brings us to the next unknown fact of D.C., a lot of those guys in the gay bars are elected members of the Congress or their staffers.
This is where the fun could begin if their was a concerted effort to "Out" the very people who are so dead set against the equal rights for people who have been used as a political football for the GOP/TP.
The GOP/TP gays are out their and they need to be brought to task. Gay rights are for all gays not just the "entitled".
+4 # Anarchist 23 2014-10-31 14:48
Too bad Apple electronics are still made by over-worked, under-paid Asian workers; he may be gay but he's no economic reformist!
+4 # Blackjack 2014-10-31 19:50
Too bad Lindsey Graham still hasn't been outed or had the courage to out himself!
+3 # CAMUS1111 2014-11-01 18:31
McCain hasn't proposed yet
+2 # Phillybuster 2014-11-02 12:03
Lindsey doesn't have a large enough dowry.
0 # corals33 2014-11-05 12:33
People who are sexually attracted to people of the same sex are NOT gay, they are people attracted to people of the same sex.It is bad enough we have to put up with this segment of society hi-jacking the word GAY; now it seems they want to hi-jack Human Reality by promoting their life choices as a viable alternative to procreation.Per sonally, I don't give a damn who you sexually prefer and don't see the need for this discussion or the so-called campaigns generated on this issue.It really is an insult to intelligence to pretend that this issue should have the public profile that it does.Live the life you love and love the life you live and stop shoving it into other people's faces.

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