NYT Editor: Like Civil Rights, GOP Must Be 'Convinced' Gay Marriage is A 'Moral Issue'

Appearing on Meet the Press's web-based feature Press Pass, New York Times opinion editor Clay Risen told NBC host David Gregory that just as Republicans "had to be convinced" that civil rights legislation in the 1960s "was a moral issue," so too would the GOP have to convinced on the issue of "gay rights": "...a lot of people who, when it comes down to it, don't really have an opinion one way or another but maybe just had a default position against it, starting to come around and say, 'Okay, I get why this is important.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

The commentary was prompted by Gregory comparing the two movements: "...we even see parallels with what a lot of people think is a parallel to gay rights, to marriage rights now, a debate about what the federal government should do, the courts should do, and what states should be allowed to do themselves."

Risen was on the program to promote his new book on passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act entitled, The Bill of the Century.


Here is a transcript of the exchange aired on the local Washington D.C. NBC affiliate WRC-4 on Sunday:

11:35 AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: I mean, southern Democrats were saying there's no way – the backlash politically and there's nothing to be gained from doing it.

CLAY RISEN [NEW YORK TIMES]: Exactly. And up until the early '60s, you had a really tight alliance between southern Democrats and conservative Republicans from the Midwest, where the conservative Republicans wanted small government and didn't really care about civil rights. They were willing to back the southern Democrats on opposing civil rights if the southern Democrats, who some of whom were very populist, would back them on opposing government spending. And that started to break down for a variety of reasons.

GREGORY: Well, and we even see parallels with what a lot of people think is a parallel to gay rights, to marriage rights now, a debate about what the federal government should do, the courts should do, and what states should be allowed to do themselves.

RISEN: Yeah, absolutely, and one of the things you see with gay rights and other questions today that the difference is a lot of people who, when it comes down to it, don't really have an opinion one way or another but maybe just had a default position against it, starting to come around and say, "Okay, I get why this is important."

The same thing with civil rights. A lot of those Midwestern Republicans just had to be convinced that this was a moral issue. They didn't have black constituents in their districts so, you know, they just didn't understand why it was important. And a lot of the story is convincing them, "Yes, we have to do something."

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC