There was a widely used slogan for the same-sex marriage movement a few years back: Love is love.
It’s less clear if that’s true in the eyes of Mia Love. The 4th District congresswoman sent out a fundraising email last week hammering her Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, for being a closet liberal.
It read like it could have been written by President Donald Trump during one of his early morning Twitter rants, ridiculing her opponent’s “Moderate McAdams” image and accusing the press of going easy on him.
One of the issues where she says McAdams has shown his true liberal colors is same-sex marriage. “McAdams,” it says, “was ‘pleased’ with the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.”
McAdams fired back, saying Love’s “efforts to divide us over equality is shameful.”
“I’m proud of my work to build bridges,” he said on Twitter. “She should apologize, disavow [the ad] and return any money.”
I’m sure the Love campaign team is getting right to work on that.
There was a time when this issue was a surefire winner for Utah Republicans, but times have changed and it could be a mistake for Love to count on the marriage issue.
Statewide, 54 percent of Utahns now support the right of LGBTQ couples to wed, according to a poll conducted last year by the Public Religion Research Institute. That’s double the support measured in the state in a 2011 poll by Public Policy Polling.
Given the demographics of Utah’s various congressional districts, support is likely even higher in the 4th District, which tends to skew slightly more moderate than the rest of the state.
A second problem for Love is that it’s not entirely clear that there’s much daylight between her and McAdams on same-sex marriage.
Remarkably, I was able to find only one statement from her on the issue, a Facebook post from June 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, where she said it was wrong for a court to invalidate an act of Congress. “I am committed to join with Utah voters to continue the fight,” she said.
Since then, it’s been crickets.
There wasn’t a word from her after the Kitchen v. Herbert decision made marriage legal in Utah, or after the Obergefell decision that made it the law nationwide.
Love’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said he doesn’t know what Love thinks about same-sex marriage or what, if anything, she would like to see Congress do on the issue. Hansen said he suspects Love accepts the court’s ruling and considers it to be settled.
The mention of marriage in the fundraising email “was not in there to attack” same-sex marriage, Hansen said. “This was a liberal position at the time” the court ruled in Obergefell (in 2015) “and that’s the position he took.”
It’s not really clear what Love or Congress could do to roll back same-sex marriage. Would they seriously attempt to dissolve the thousands of unions around the country and face that backlash? Seems unlikely.
It also seems that, at its core, this is nothing but a dog whistle, targeted at Love’s hardcore Republican base, trying to get them fired up and scrambling to contribute.
And when the checks clear and the campaign comes to an end, they won’t hear much about that gay marriage boogeyman for at least two years, when it gets trotted out again. And it probably will if she wins, because, as they say: Love is Love.