Friday, May 11, 2012

It’s not about being cool, but playing it safe: Boricua political candidates react to Obama’s position on same-sex marriage

How politicians react to issues sets them apart and determines if their positions are truly theirs or carefully crafted by their communications advisors. And dealing with the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, an uncomfortable silence, and then, opposition was a rare coincidence among most of the candidates for the top political positions in Puerto Rico.

The irony is that anything related to same-sex marriage and gay rights seems to be the new definition of political opportunism. They all courted the gay community for support, but when a difficult issue arises, such as facing the religious groups, they backed down.

They all played cool with the LGBTT groups but safe with the rest of the population, that’s why their reactions to President Barack Obama’s announcement that he supports gay marriage, were delayed to yesterday in the afternoon. But they had no other choice but react since it quickly turned into the main topic of discussion in all of the radio stations, newspapers, TV news shows and on the local social media scene.

At the moment the first local media analysis on this issue was published yesterday morning, (, only a few spoke on the issue. It was obvious they waited for their strategists to develop talking points that would appeal to the religious groups, while at the same time, not shutting down completely the possibility to attract the gay and LGBT vote.

Both Governor Luis Fortuño from the New Progressive Party and top opposition leader Alejandro García Padilla stated that marriage is among a man and a woman. Pro-Independence Party leader, Juan Dalmau’s reaction was somewhat in the middle although his candidate for Resident Commissioner, Juan Mercado, had stated in favor of equality. The only candidate who expressed in favor of same-sex marriage was Enrique Vazquez Quintana from the Sovereignty Movement (Movimiento Unión Soberanista), a new party.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is all a matter of state law and if it is approved or not, and in Puerto Rico is not approved”, stated Fortuño, a remark that was basically the same for the other candidates.

In this rare coincidence in the stance taken by most local politicians we can say they played it safe in communications to avoid public disgrace. Let's be honest: all political parties knew the gay rights are tough issues, and they all just want to avoid controversies facing a possible close election. For them, it’s all about playing it safe.

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