No winner or loser today, just feeling a jolt in the air.
Washington State Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna talked with the Olympian today about gay marriage.
McKenna doesn't offer anything new policywise—he's saying what he's always said ("My position is the same as Barack Obama's") while also touting his support for domestic partnerships (adding that he argued on the same side as gay rights activists in the US Supreme Court, demanding that signatures for the repeal effort on domestic partner laws be made public.)
But there's something noteworthy about this interview. A tone change. An near-acknowledgment from the GOP's star politician that the GOP maybe just doesn't get it.
First, McKenna is forced to address the position of his potential successor as AG, Republican King County Council Member Reagan Dunn, who came out for gay marriage on Monday and got great press for it. McKenna says he "respects" Dunn's position. [pullquote]A plebiscite on a constitutional rights question that involves a minority group is a creepy precedent. That's why the US Supreme Court and not the voters of Mississippi, for example, made the call on segregation. We're surprised that a legal scholar like McKenna would go there.[/pullquote]
Second, McKenna isn't defensive and dismissive of the conversation about gay rights, as Washington's previous Republican standard bearer Dino Rossi was. McKenna says: "I have a hard time getting there. I mean, this is all fairly new still, our society is still moving—as our President said, evolving."
Meanwhile, McKenna's only substantive (as in, legal) objection to gay marriage came during his KUOW interview last summer, when he said “there would start to be pressure on religious organizations to permit it as well.” But the legislation that Gov. Chris Gregoire, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), and state Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Seattle) are proposing will, Gregoire says, come with an exemption so that churches won't be required to perform gay marriage ceremonies.
We are watching the floor fall out from under the GOP on this issue.
McKenna falls back on the only dodge that's left: The voters should decide. That's certainly what's going to happen. But we must say: Putting what is definitely a constitutional question up to a plebiscite, a constitutional rights question that involves a minority group, is a creepy precedent. That's why the US Supreme Court and not the voters of Mississippi, for example, made the call on segregation. We're surprised that a legal scholar like McKenna would go there.