Did Times Executive Editor Bill Keller really sign on to a proposal by G.O.P. libertarian candidate Ron Paul? Yes, though it had nothing to do with the gold standard, abolishing the Federal Reserve, or lowering taxes, but a possible conservative compromise position on gay marriage which would give Republicans "a chance to avoid being on the wrong side of history."
In the wake of New York State's vote to allow gay marriage, Executive Editor Bill Keller's supportive column for the July 3 Sunday magazine, 'Solving the G.O.P.'s Gay Marriage Problem,' was rushed up online almost a full week early.
Even before New York passed its law last week, the move toward legalization of same-sex marriage in America had become inexorable. It may feel excruciatingly slow for those who are waiting their turn, but it's just a matter of time until the country lives up to what it believes.
The latest Gallup poll shows that, for the first time, a majority of Americans favors marriage rights. And support will continue to surge thanks to demographics: among 18-to-34-year-olds, approval is now an overwhelming 70 percent. If Gallup polled high-school students, it would need a category called 'Why are you even asking?'
The Republican electoral base remains unconvinced - only 28 percent of G.O.P. voters accept same-sex marriage, unchanged from a year ago - and so does most of the Republican presidential field. While no one expects the 2012 election to hinge on gay marriage, the issue may have weight, especially if one of the G.O.P.'s more vociferous social conservatives gets the nomination. Those views would be a potential liability in a general election where, according to Gallup, 59 percent of independent voters favor gay marriage.
Keller fastened onto a line (actually an old libertarian conception): Rep. Ron Paul threw out at the June 13 Republican debate in New Hampshire.
A few lecterns down the stage from Bachmann, Representative Ron Paul, the feisty Texas libertarian, had an answer that caught my attention: 'Get the government out of it.'
'I don't think government should give us a license to get married,' Paul said. 'It should be in the church.'
Would Republican voters buy it? Maybe. Polls show that they are more amenable to civil unions than to anything called marriage. There's also something classically conservative about the idea. Theodore B. Olson, the former Bush solicitor general who is co-counsel on the California lawsuit for gay marriage, tells fellow Republicans that a good same-sex-marriage law embodies some of the party's most fundamental principles: freedom to live your life, stable families and (by not requiring churches to marry gay couples if that violates their beliefs) religious liberty. Paul's approach offers conservatives all of that plus a heaping helping of less-government-in-your-life.
And one other thing: a chance to avoid being on the wrong side of history.