I am pretty puzzled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) suddenly outspoken stance against the church led support of Prop 8. Apparently unsolicited, this past weekend while sitting down for an interview about his support of the equity march on washington, Sen. Reid spoke critically of the church’s involvement.
“Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, is the highest ranking elected official who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He previously has not commented on the flood of Mormon money and volunteers who helped propel Proposition 8 to victory in November.
But three organizers of the past weekend’s National Equality March said Reid brought up the topic during a conversation in his office.
“He said that he thought it was a waste of church resources and good will,” said Derek Washington, a Nevadan who worked as the outreach director for the march. “He said he didn’t think it was appropriate.”
For Sen. Reid there just does not seem to be an upside in speaking out here. He is already in a bitter election campaign which all indicators seem to suggest he will lose. Polls have shown him down by 11 points against opponents that have not even officially announced their candidacy. Nate Silver on Fivethirtyeight.com has his race ranked as the second most likely to change party hands. Moreover, Reid already has received a lot of criticism from church. Moreover, Reid is unlikely to win much support among Nevada’s more progressive individuals due to his stated support for keeping marriage between a man and a woman. I just don’t see the upside in Reid’s actions from a political perspective.
On the other hand, as a matter of principle Reid’s actions in the past couple of weeks shine. His endorsement of the Equity March, advocacy for booted gay Iraq war veteran Dan Choi and his general advocacy for LGBT issues including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the senate are pretty impressive. Maybe this is what a leader does when he has stopped worrying about reelection and has embraced defeat? I am proud of Senator Reid for showing the nation that Mormon and Democrat are completely compatible, and that Mormons can passionately come out in favor of gay rights issues. Now, this criticism goes a bit further in actively opposing the decision of the church to enter the fray. I certainly hope that because of his high profile Harry Reid is never punished for his statements, and that he gives courage to others enabling them to speak out on the topic. I have hesitated to speak my own feelings about prop-8 thus far on this blog and do not intend to do so at moment, but I am passionate about the idea that one should not be punished for speaking out in this fashion. I never thought I’d say this, but in this regard Reid stands as a paragon of courage. He is showing true leadership by being vocal on an issue that others wish to keep quiet on. I just wish he’d get some backbone on other issues.