Our own Ann Friedman states it best: reproductive rights and gay rights shouldn't be seen as "culture war" issues -- a framing that plays into the hands of the right -- but should actually be understood as what they really are, matters of civil rights. Unfortunately, it seems that Third Way hasn't gotten the message. The think tank is asking the Obama administration to embrace "a governing agenda to end the culture wars" called "Come Let Us Reason Together." The coalition of religious leaders who support the document deserve plaudits for recognizing that comprehensive immigration reform and ending torture must be part of any moral governing agenda. But the group avoids issues such as comprehensive sex-ed in schools, birth-control access, civil unions, and gay marriage:

Reducing abortions through common ground policies.

We agree on a goal of reducing abortions in America through policies that address the circumstances that lead to abortion: preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption.

Protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living.

Based on a common commitment to fairness and the Golden Rule, we support a policy that makes it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees based on their sexual orientation. We also believe that there must be a clear exemption for faith-based employers.

I think David Brody gets it right when he says these issues simply aren't what the Obama administration wants to deal with right now:

They don’t want to get bogged down on fights over gay rights and abortion. It would end up being a distraction because they are laser focused on the economy. So for this agenda to move forward, Obama is going to have to get a few serious legislative lopsided victories under his belt. If in the next couple years he can get an energy bill and a healthcare bill through Congress, then he would be in a stronger position to take on issues that require serious heavy lifting. Healthcare is a tough nut to crack but it pales in comparison to the emotional issues of abortion and gay rights.

But I'd be surprised if Obama ever clearly aligns himself with Third Way when it comes to social issues. The feminist and gay rights groups that speak with authority within the Democratic coalition are simply hoping for a much broader, tougher civil rights agenda on their issues.

--Dana Goldstein

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