I was a debater for four years in high school, and my main task was to weigh the positive and negative impacts of policies. When I looked at a potential government policy, I performed a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether I would support or oppose it.
When politicians engage in policy discussions, they don’t do a lot of weighing, but it seems voters do. I want to defend an act of weighing likely performed by millions of fiscally conservative, socially liberal Americans who voted for Mitt Romney: they weighed the economic interests of the nation above the civil rights of LGBT people, and the economic interests of the nation won.
A recent Huffington Post piece assails this weighing conducted by many moderate voters. In the article, Kergan Edwards-Stout, a gay man, asked any Facebook friends or Twitter followers to de-friend him if they were planning to vote for Romney. He argued that he could not tolerate Romney supporters because they vote for a man who opposes some of his basic rights. He disowned friends and family who were planning to vote for Romney, even if that vote was based solely on economic issues.
Let me be clear: I voted for Barack Obama. I’m (mostly) gay, support gay rights wholeheartedly, and was extremely turned off by Romney’s position against gay marriage. I also prefer Barack Obama’s economic and foreign policies to Romney’s. But Edwards-Stout’s argument is flawed.
The decision to vote for Romney despite his position on gay rights is respectable if not noble. 100% of American citizens are affected by the condition of the United States economy. Roughly 10% of the American population is part of the LGBT community. If you are a firm fiscal conservative prioritizing the interests of 100% of the country over the interests of 10% of the country because you believe that Romney, despite being against gay marriage, can fix the economy, you are weighing, and you are placing the interests of all above the interests of the few. As a member of the LGBT community, I do not find that decision offensive. It may even be noble and righteous to use your vote to positively affect everyone instead of a minority.
On a more ideological and abstract level, Edwards-Stout argument is bad for the American political dialogue and climate. It’s no secret that the United States is facing a number of problems, and this country needs to unify. We should be able to be friends with people who disagree with us. Romney supporters aren’t all homophobes; some are just fiscal conservatives. To push socially liberal fiscal conservatives away because they vote for a man who is against gay marriage is divisive and counteracts civil dialogue and national unity. I’m guessing Edwards-Stout voted for Barack Obama. The President has based his message and campaign on hope and unity, not despair and divisiveness.
Let me be clear: Mitt Romney is part of a party whose platform on civil rights is discriminatory. Mitt Romney’s position on marriage is discriminatory, and by voting for him you voted for these policies whether you support them or not. But your vote for Governor Romney doesn’t offend me; your view is a part of the melting pot of ideas. The majority of the American people, myself included, weighed the issues differently on Tuesday, but I’d be happy to remain your Facebook friend.