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Political Wives Buck Husbands' Positions on Gay Issues

  • cindy_mccain_noh8.jpg

    Cindy McCain poses for the NoH8 Campaign, a group that opposes the California proposition banning gay marriage, in September. (Image courtesy NoH8 Campaign)

  • meghan_mccain_noh8.jpg

    Meghan McCain posed for the NoH8 Campaign in January, eight months before her mother. (Image courtesy NoH8 Campaign)

“Stand up for your beliefs” seems to be replacing “stand by your man” as the mantra for political wives, many of whom have publicly challenged their husbands’ positions in the debate over repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).

Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona GOP Senator John McCain, is the latest to come out in opposition to her spouse’s stance on gay issues. Mrs. McCain joins a host of celebrities calling for an end to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in a new video released Thursday by the No H8 campaign.

The two-and-a-half-minute video delves deeper into bullying, an issue that’s gained national attention following the recent rash of suicides by gay youth.

These youngsters may be killing themselves because “our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future,” McCain says in the video, despite the fact that her husband is one of those political leaders.

“They can’t serve our country openly,” she continues. “Our government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens; why shouldn’t [bullies]?”

Senator McCain has held that DADT, the policy in place since 1993 that prohibits members of the military from asking about or disclosing their sexual orientation, is a necessary evil. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been an imperfect but effective policy,” McCain said in his opening statement at a February 2 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the policy. “[A]t this moment, when we are asking more of our military than at any time in recent memory, we should not repeal this law.”

But McCain hasn’t closed the door on reviewing and possibly lifting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “I am not opposed to having a full and informed debate oh whether to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and then allow the Senate to legislate,” McCain said on the Hill in September, though he maintains his support for the law has not wavered.

Cindy isn’t the only McCain to verbally oppose the senator. Outspoken daughter Meghan McCain has criticized President Obama for not doing more to help the gay community, and she supports gay marriage and DADT repeal.

“For me, ‘Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell’ is also a national security issue,” the younger McCain said on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow” show in September.

"I have two brothers in the military and it`s just making them less safe when you throw out Arabic translators because they`re gay,” McCain continued. “And I personally believe that when you`re in a fox hole, it doesn`t matter who you go home to at night.”

But Meghan stresses that her and her mother’s contrary views are not indicative of anything more than a disagreement with the senator. “There's nothing but respect and love there,” Meghan told the Arizona Republic in September. “Just because I support gay marriage and my father does not, does not mean that anything changes about our relationship.”

Former first lady Laura Bush joined the fray in May 2010, discussing in several TV interviews her disagreement with husband George W. Bush on gay issues, but she stopped short of actively calling for a change in either marriage or DADT laws.

Bush told Fox’s Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” she believed the debate over gay marriage needed not enter the 2004 reelection campaign. “I think what happens on big social issues…  is the debate ends up denigrating a certain group of people,” she said, adding in other interviews that she did not want to see that happen to family friends who were gay or had gay children and understood the desire for gay couples to commit to each other in the same way as straight men and women marry.

On DADT, Bush would only say that Congress and the Pentagon “are going to have to talk about and figure out what is really best for the United States military,” in an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”