Values Voting

Thu. April 12, 2012 12:00 AM
by Waymon Hudson

With what is sure to be an internal war for socially extreme supporters of a now defunct Rick Santorum trying to support a flip-flopping Mitt Romney, the role of so-called "values voters" are once again at the forefront of media coverage. This block of voters is at the same time concerned about a morally "insincere" Romney and uncomfortable with what they see as his non-evangelical Mormon roots. While they have been a political powerhouse in elections in the past, they seem unable to deliver the GOP presidential nomination to any of their culture warrior candidates, including the extreme Santorum. With Santorum's campaign now suspended, Romney will have to continue to try to court the extreme fringe of right-wing voters.

Yet in all the reporting and short-hand references to "values voters", we miss a crucial point about this block of people who hold extreme, and increasingly out-of-the-mainstream, social views. In accepting the title of "values voters" for this block, we unwittingly cede a moral high ground.

You see, I am a values voter.

I use my views on social issues to shape who I vote for. LGBT issues absolutely influence my vote. But by that line of thinking, what separates me from the conservative, anti-gay, groups I rail so hard against?

While I admit that my values and views on LGBT rights are one of my top voting priorities, what separates me from these so-called "values voters is how the values and beliefs I base my vote on would affect others and their lives.

Let's break it down.

I believe in marriage equality, fully-inclusive bullying laws and non-discrimination policies, and equal access to civil rights and services for all. Usually when people refer to values voters, they are referring to the far-right social conservatives who think that anything with an LGBT attached to it is morally wrong and should not be supported.

The difference in the values I vote on is that they don't infringe on anyone else's personal rights. If I get married to my partner, it won't have any affect on the conservative voter or their marriage. Neither will protections against anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination. These values simply expand my rights without any effect on the opposition. I am improving my life without hurting others or their rights. None of these things stop social conservatives from holding the beliefs they do, deny them access to rights or religious freedom, or force anything into their home and lives.

In fact, many courts across the country agree-- providing rights to gay people do impact equality opponents in any way. As Judge Walker said in the decision on the Prop. 8 Case: "Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages." It was a view shared by the courts in the Golinski case against DOMA, where a Bush appointee in the Northern District of California concurred: "The exclusion of same-sex couples from the federal definition of marriage does nothing to encourage or strengthen opposite-sex marriages."

On the other hand, the beliefs of these co-called "values voters" are all about interfering in the lives of others and imposing their personal moral values on the entire nation. The constitutional bans on gay marriage directly affect me and my family, while at the same time not having any impact on their lives. When conservatives oppose anti-bullying legislation and non-discrimination policies it directly harms the LGBT community, yet again takes nothing away from them.

Their entire argument against LGBT issues is based on personal moral disdain, rather than any real tangible evidence that it would harm them. All of the conservative social values and voting priorities are about taking away the rights of others and imposing their view on the world, while at the same time not messing up their personal status quo. And let's not forget the tactics these co-called "values voters" use-- as seen in the recent internal memo scandal from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Stirring up ugly racial tensions, sowing seeds of discord in an already polarized country, and using long-disproved "gays harm children" memes to take away basic civil rights from LGBT Americans hardly seem like actions of people who know much about "values."

So do I vote my social values? Absolutely.
I value equality and respect for all people.
I value expanding the rights of people, not taking them away.
I value the rights of others to live their lives without imposing my beliefs on them in the public sphere.

That's something the so-called "values voters" should take a lesson in. By imposing their beliefs on others and stripping away the rights of others, they have lost all sense of values and morals.

So, I'm taking back the term. I refuse to cede any ground to a group whose "values" include using disgusting tactics to promote their own narrow view on morality and strip others of their rights.

I am a values voter.