In the run-up to last year’s midterm election, one of then-U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester’s campaign ads pictured Tester kneeling next to a dog with a shotgun in his hand. The unwritten message: “I’m a pro-gun Democrat.” Two years earlier Brian Schweitzer, then a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, drew fellow Dems a map for negotiating the “God, guns and gays” minefield that has blown up so many Democratic campaigns in rural states. In what one of Schweitzer’s chief strategists called a political “coup,” Schweitzer appeared on the cover of the Independent peering through a rifle scope, thereby assuring firearmed Montanans that this cowboy wasn’t about to take their guns away.
For decades Republicans have successfully used “God, guns and gays” as a three-point wedge to split the country into polarized camps. Their message: “Democ-rats are secularists who want to take your guns and ruin the sanctity of marriage.”
Now a local non-profit political group has a strategy for dulling that wedge with a new T-shirt that reads: “God, Guns & Gays: Love ’em all.” The shirt features criss-crossed rifles with a cross and a rainbow.
“There’s been a lot of anger in this country over these issues that we think is really unnecessary,” says Matt Singer, CEO of Forward Montana, the group behind the T-shirts.
Singer says conservatives don’t have a monopoly on the Second Amendment, liberals do have religion, and most Montanans just want the government to stay out of their personal lives…and bedrooms.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years there have been people who have tried to use these hot-button issues to try to divide the country in places where there really isn’t that strong of a divide,” Singer says. “But instead of listening to what we’re saying about this, we’re hoping people will take a look at the shirt, think about it themselves, talk to their friends, and hopefully get a little less angry about this whole thing.”