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Meghan (left) and Cindy McCain are speaking out in favor of equal gay rights with the NOH8 campaign.
Meghan (left) and Cindy McCain are speaking out in favor of equal gay rights with the NOH8 campaign. Scott Olson/Getty Images
Carolyn Beeler is a Kroc Fellow at NPR. She enjoys reporting and writing on race, gender and inequality.
Cindy McCain made headlines and drove conversation in the blogosphere this week by posing for an ad supporting gay marriage.
Her daughter Meghan McCain, who also posed for the ad campaign against Proposition 8, has been an outspoken proponent of gay marriage for years. But this is the first time Cindy McCain has publicly taken a stance so contrary to her husband's platform.
She's not the first political spouse to represent a different opinion from her mate on a controversial issue. During her husband's presidency, Betty Ford was a vocal proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment and of abortion rights — both controversial issues. Reportedly, when Ford's staff warned him about his wife's outspokenness, he replied that she had a right to her own opinions.
Likewise, Barbara Bush spoke out in favor of gun control, taking the opposite view of her husband, George H.W. Bush. But unlike Betty Ford, who continued to vocalize her opinions, when Barbara Bush drew the ire of some of her husband's base in the NRA, she reportedly decided not to speak again on issues that would make her the target of public debate. Though she made pro-abortion-rights statements in the 1980 campaign, she wouldn't restate her views until her husband was out of the White House.
However, unlike her outspoken predecessors, Cindy McCain is the wife of a politician who, by conventional wisdom, has little to lose. A gutsier move, and one that would have gained far more attention for the cause of gay marriage, would have been for Cindy to speak out when she was in the national spotlight during her husband's campaign. Or, for that matter, anytime before Proposition 8 was passed in California.
Still, it took some chutzpah for Cindy McCain to express views that will very likely win her criticism from friends, constituents and supporters of both her and her husband. She's working to bring attention to something she believes in, and I find it hard to find fault in that.
But it shouldn't matter to us whether she stood up for gay marriage during her husband's campaign, or at all. Ultimately, we need to stop conflating the views of politicians and their families. It's ridiculous and antiquated to think that any couple will take an identical stance on every issue. It's time we stopped making politician's spouses hide their opinions to create the illusion of a unified ideological front.
We vote one person into office. Not an entire family.