First, the context. Sen. McCain didn't bring up the subject. He was responding to a question. And even the question was interesting because the woman posing it was really more interested in the discussion of marriage in the context of fidelity, which she saw as the real crisis. She also noted her support of civil unions. Don't get me wrong. I believe in marriage equality. Plain. Simple. And I think Sen. McCain (like the Democratic candidates) comes up short on that issue. But my strong position doesn't make me deaf to the shifts in the rhetoric on the Right side of the spectrum. It remains to be seen in future speeches whether Sen. McCain will lead with marriage rather than wait to be asked about it. But I think the distinction is significant given the marriage wars we've endured over the last few years. I think it's also interesting that a woman stood up in a room full of Tennessee Republicans and said without giving it a second thought that she supports civil unions. I don't take that to mean that even half the room agreed with her, but she did it. Furthermore, she all but demanded that marriage issues be addressed in their fullness without wishing to single out the GLBT community. Is her position satisfactory? Absolutely not. But it's an example of the way the marriage debate is shifting.
Second, the policy implications of what Sen. McCain said. Status quo.
Appearing at a campaign rally in Tennessee, John McCain was met with sustained cheers after stating that he believes "in the sanctity and unique status of marriage between man and woman."
As the cheers began, McCain added "That's what I believe, that's what I support, and that's what I will fight for."
I believe that's what the courts call puffery in advertising. Do I like it? No. But I note that he didn't commit to a Federal Marriage Amendment. There's one brewing in the House of Representatives, but not a word about it. I hope it stays that way, but I'm not holding my breath. He will face immense pressure in some quarters to go whole hog on family values issues. But the realities of the war and the economy won't let him go there for long.