Precinct 333

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Marriage = Career Suicide?

Most Republicans have no particular problem with homosexuals. That may shock a lot of people, given that the standard media approach to stories on the issue of the GOP and homosexuality is to interview the folks on the more extreme edge of the religious right on the issue, rather than Dick Cheney. That is why it is no surprise that there are any number of "out" conservative/libertarian Republicans who are active in the party. Arthur J. Finkelstein has been one of those for years.

On the othe hand, most members of the GOP do oppose same sex marriage -- especially if it is imposed by courts over the vocal objections of the overwhelming majority of Americans. It is an issue that the GOP has and will run on, and upon which it has and will win. And that is why a personal decision by Finkelstein may constitute career suicide.

Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel over the last 25 years, said Friday that he had married his male partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.

Mr. Finkelstein, 59, who has made a practice of defeating Democrats by trying to demonize them as liberal, said in a brief interview that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

"I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said.

He declined further comment on the wedding, which was in December.

Some of Mr. Finkelstein's associates said they were startled to learn that this prominent American conservative had married a man, given his history with the party, especially at a time when many Republican leaders, including President Bush, have campaigned against same-sex marriage and proposed amending the Constitution to ban it. Mr. Finkelstein has been allied over the years with Republicans who have fiercely opposed gay rights measures, including former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and has been the subject of attacks by gay rights activists who have accused him of hypocrisy. He was identified as gay in a Boston Magazine article in 1996.

Now I respect the right of Finkelstein and his partner to have whatever sort of personal relationship they choose to have, though I do not believe that this legitimately extends to marriage (which waas illegitimately imposed upon the people of Massachusetts by an activist court which misinterpreted a document partially written by John Adams). You would find that this is the position held by most Republicans, though not by those coming out of the ultra-libertarian wing of the party. We might personally and socially acknowledge the fact of the relationship, but reject the notion that we should be legally compelled to do more than that. Given that about 7-in-10 Americans oppose same sexx marriage, I would be willing to speculate that this is the position of roughly half the American public.

But that is not my main point. My question is this -- what happens to Finkelstein's career at this point? Does he still have a career as a GOP political consultant? I'm frankly not sure.

Among the libertarian, non-social conservative wing of the party, I'm sure he does. But given the "hot-button" nature of the gay marriage issue (which even a large number of Democrats oppose), will candidates in competitive districts and/or facing primary challenges be willing to take the risk of hiring Finkelstein? After all, we've seen candidates damaged by a bad choice in the past, if they hire a consultant whose previous work involves a controversial candidate or issue. While I respect Finkelstein's personal motives and would be willing to "agree to disagree" on that issue, I know I would never hire him for a congressional race for precisely because it would make me vulnerable in the district in which I live -- not that I plan on taking on Tom Delay any time soon. I doubt his expertise would outweigh the damage his Massachusetts marriage could (not necessarily would) cause.

By the way, I am curious about one thing. Finkelstein and his partner marriaed in December. There is just one quote attributed to him in this article. Was this marriage revealed by choice, or was it a case of outing by activists like Mike Rogers and John Aravosis (though I am NOT accusing either of having done so in this case)?


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