On October 10, CNN held a town hall in Los Angeles featuring several Democratic presidential candidates and dedicated entirely to issues particularly relevant to LGBTQ communities. To a question about what she would say to a self-described supporter who expressed a belief “that marriage should be between one man and one woman,” Senator Elizabeth Warren offered this read heard round the world:
“…then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that…assuming you can find one.”
After I laughed I wondered what the blowback might be. Would political operatives accuse her of glibly closing the door on a potential voter whom her party desperately needed? Would she be criticized for violating a basic tenet of mild-mannered liberalism: meeting folks where they’re at? Here’s my take on the philosophy behind Warren’s response:
The time for equivocation, moderation, and compromise vis-à-vis the civil rights of queer and trans people in this country has passed. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and civil unions were both implemented more with appeasement than justice in mind and both compromised the humanity of queer folks. In a masterful 30-second response, Senator Warren made it very clear that the dignity and liberty of queer Americans is up for neither debate nor negotiation. Warren’s takedown of the hypothetical progressive half-stepper made it clear that she has no intention of moderating her progressive policy agenda in order to accommodate others’ discomfort. Marginalized groups need justice—absolutely and unequivocally.
Folks may argue her strategy. Who knows if she lost more votes than she may have gained with her statement. What she certainly accomplished, however, is delivering the message that in this fight there are only two sides – the right side and the wrong side – and she has let everyone know exactly where she stands.