In the wake of President Obama saying he supported same-sex marriage yesterday, most people were thrilled. I was. And why not? No American president has ever said that before and symbolic affirmation is significant. Yeah, some people weren’t impressed, but what else is new?
Here’s a hypothetical: Regardless of what Obama said, what if it was Mitt Romney who had come out in support of marriage equality instead?
What if he figured out that most of the people voting for him are going to support him regardless? They’re not about to vote for Obama. What if Romney decided to make a play for the youth vote? What if he was the one who made news by saying he was in support of marriage equality — despite what others in his party want him to say — and he hoped states would follow in that direction? What if he said his marriage was strong and wonderful and he wanted all couples, both gay and straight, to experience that as well?
Implausibility aside, a Republican nominee for president voicing an opinion like that could arguably do more to get bigoted voters to think differently about gay marriage than anything Obama could do. (I mean, it’s not like they’re going to change their mind because of what he said.)
So, I’ve been reading the conversations about Edwina Rogers and listening as everyone goes out of their way to find reasons to discredit her. She recently gave money to Republicans like Rick Perry. She wasn’t a vocal atheist before now. She’s not realistic about what the GOP is like these days.
None of these things concern me very much.
I wasn’t part of the hiring conversations but it looks like the Secular Coalition for America made a strategic decision based on everyone who applied. They took on someone who had significant lobbying experience, knew how to manage a staff, and believed in our mission. The fact that she was a Republican was seen as an asset — a way to get through to the people least sympathetic to our cause — not a liability.
Everyone seems to be forgetting that Sean Faircloth, who is now working for the Richard Dawkins Foundation and has been an outspoken advocate for our issues, had virtually no knowledge about our movement until he read an article quoting SCA President Herb Silverman in the New York Times. He was surprised to find an organization that promoted his non-belief and he soon applied for the Executive Director position.
The article came out on April 29th, 2009. The SCA publicized Sean’s hiring as Executive Director on June 3th, 2009. In other words, it was about a month between discovering our movement existed and taking the reins of the SCA.
Did he know everything about our cause beforehand? No, but he self-identified as an atheist. He just never really did much with that label before his new job compelled him to make a big deal about it.
Is anyone doubting his sincerity and dedication to our cause now?
Edwina Rogers is only different in that she’s coming from a party that actively opposes our values. Still, she has said time and time again that she doesn’t align with the party on those fronts. If she’s a Republican, it’s for different reasons.
She also says she believes (“100%”) in our mission.
Now, we have to give her time to figure out what makes our movement tick. I know we want her to be well-versed in it already, but that’s not going to happen overnight.
People are threatening to stop donating to the SCA because of her — to that, I’d say, “Stop acting prematurely.”
Yesterday, when the SCA denounced Catholic CEO group Legatus for filing a lawsuit because they didn’t want their insurance plans to cover contraceptive care as the Department of Health and Human Services mandated, Rogers offered a statement that sure as hell sounded like it would come from “one of us”:
“Legatus is asking the government to place the religious beliefs of the employer over the individual religious beliefs of the employees, and they are doing it under a smoke screen of religious persecution,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “True religious freedom allows for individuals to make personal moral and health decisions for themselves.”
Doesn’t sound like a “typical” Republican to me.
If Rogers works out for the SCA, it could help us *considerably* in the long run. A lot of people are being way too myopic about her hiring. Give her time to learn her job and advocate for us well. If she can’t, there will be plenty of time to complain.