Last night, actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black both won Oscars for their work on “Milk,” which told the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official. Today, the right wing expressed its disgust that the movie received such acclamation. On his radio show, Mike Gallagher slammed Penn for ignoring “the majority of Americans” by supporting gay marriage rights, saying it went against America’s “fundamental values.”
Gallagher asked guest Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, if he thought the party “ought to consider” something like civil unions. Steele replied immediately, “No, no, no,” adding, “What are you, crazy?” He made it clear that the party would not budge on gay rights:
GALLAGHER: Is this a time when Republicans ought to consider some sort of alternative to redefining marriage and maybe in the road, down the road to civil unions. Do you favor civil unions?
STEELE: No, no no. What would we do that for? What are you, crazy? No. Why would we backslide on a core, founding value of this country? I mean this isn’t something that you just kind of like, “Oh well, today I feel, you know, loosey-goosey on marriage.” [...]
GALLAGHER: So no room even for a conversation about civil unions in your mind?
STEELE: What’s the difference?
Steele’s extremist statements present a sharp contrast from the rhetoric he employed to secure his chairmanship. In November, he told the Washington Times that the party needs to reach out to new communities and that it “has to realize that there are constituencies in the body politic that have no interest in conservative litmus tests based on same-sex marriage and abortion.”
In fact, just days after winning election to head the GOP, he told ABC’s George Stehanopolous that his party would seek to include those who support gay rights:
WALLACE: You are one of the co-founders of something called the Republican Leadership Council which supports candidates who favor abortion and gay rights.
WALLACE: Does the GOP needs to do a better job of reaching out to people who hold those views?
STEELE: I think — I think that’s an important opportunity for us, absolutely.
Indeed, Steele has talked a big game about reaching new constituencies — saying recently, “We need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets” — yet he advocates bigotry that the vast majority of Americans rejects. A poll from December showed that a full 75 percent of Americans support gay marriage or civil unions, with only about 2 in 10 saying gay couples should have no legal rights.