Fine column today by Gene Lyons, also available in fuller form each week on Salon, on the "pusillanimous milquetoast" and soon-to-be senior U.S. senator from Arkansas, Mark Pryor. Gene was struck as I was by the recent Democrat-Gazette account of the Arkansas native, Brian Muller, pushed out of work as a bomb expert in Afghanistan because he's gay.
My point's pretty basic: If a preternaturally cautious Southern Democrat like Pryor thinks the U.S. is headed inevitably toward a more open and tolerant attitude toward gay sexuality, then the kinds of weak rationalizations and absurd fears he offers for his "no" vote must be losing ground everywhere.
Indeed, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military by more than 2-to-1 (58 percent to 27 percent). The recently released Pentagon study shows soldiers even more receptive to evenhanded treatment, with fully 89 percent of Army combat units and 84 percent of Marines saying they had good experiences working with gay men and lesbians.
Either way this vote goes, the day is coming when most Americans will agree that a soldier like Brian Muller has served his country every bit as much by "coming out" as a gay man as by disabling Taliban bombs.
As luck would have it, Pryor stumbled around the issue some more yesterday, telling reporters he was still undecided (though presumably still firm in his belief in the sinfulness of gay people.) His prayers this week are undoubtedly in the realm of, "Please, Lord, let Republicans filibuster everything this month to force a millionaires' tax cut because this issue will be dead next year when the Republicans control the House and I'd like to avoid voting how my heart tells me to vote because it will convince still more Democrats I'm no moderate."
Lame duck Sen. Blanche Lincoln, in the story I've just linked, continues to mince words, offering support for legislative "language" on the issue. How hard would it be for her to say that she will vote to end discrimination against gay people in the military, period. Oh, and then do it.