Friday, October 12, 2012

Collins Drops Gay Marriage Hint?

Is Sen. Susan Collins laying the groundwork to come out in support of gay marriage? Seems like a real possibility.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she's "considering" her position on the initiative in an email provided Thursday morning to the Washington Blade as she recalled her previous opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment.

"Historically, laws regulating family and domestic affairs have been almost exclusively regulated by the states which is why I have voted against federal constitutional amendments defining marriage," Collins said. "Next month, the voters in Maine will be asked to decide if they will allow the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Like voters in my state, I am considering this issue very carefully."

Three points are in order.

--First, supporting marriage equality after years of opposition, once the idea gains widespread acceptance and popular support--if that's what Collins is up to--doesn't exactly make you a gay rights crusader. It makes you a follower.

And three weeks before an election, it stinks of finger-in-the-wind politics.

So while I'd expect Collins to receive lots of accolades and fawning press coverage in the wake of such an announcement, it's worth keeping in mind that the heavy lifting on this issue was done by others. Over years and years. Collins could have been one of those people--her center-right seal of approval would probably have given the cause a real jolt back in 2006 or 2008 or even 2010. But the junior senator decided to keep her head down.

--Second, how lame is it that in 2012 (!) Collins is still resorting to an answer that amounts, basically, to "I'll get back to you."

I understand that marriage equality is a tough issue for a lot of people. But it's been part of the national discussion for almost 20 years. So what principles is she weighing? What conflicting values is she wrestling with? What reservations does she have?

Or are we supposed to believe that three weeks before voting on the biggest hot-button issue of the decade, the junior senator is just now starting to work through her feelings on the topic? The insincerity is breathtaking.

--Third, it won't surprise anyone who's been paying attention that this issue was raised by a publication based outside of Maine. Inside the state, no mainstream outlet would have the temerity to press Collins on such a sensitive social issue until the junior senator had telegraphed her interest in discussing it. It's that simple.

Of course, once the senator makes her position known--especially if the new position is likely to be viewed favorably by Maine's center-left media consumers--the same outlets that had previously ignored the subject will then trumpet the announcement as a watershed development and major news event.

It's reactive and deferential. But that's just the way the Maine press works.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Revolving Door Watch

Whaddaya know? Sen. Collins' former legislative director--he worked for the junior senator as recently as earlier this year--is becoming a lobbyist.