Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gay Marriage Becomes Relevant Again - But Is It More Popular This Time?

During the Bush Administration, Republicans made a point of using gay marriage as a wedge issue, knowing it was unpopular to the majority of Americans and that it could bring conservative voters to the polls to support GOP politicians.

But then the economy collapsed, and gay marriage was not an issue in the 2008 Presidential race.

Now, because it is legal in Iowa and Vermont, gay marriage is an issue again - especially in the state of New York. Recently, Governor David Patterson (D-NY) proposed legislation to legalize gay marriages in the Empire State, and there is a small chance it could pass.

According to some recent polling, a plurality - or even a majority - of New Yorkers support gay marriage.

Even in Upstate New York, the majority of respondents are in favor.

The bill is expected to pass the New York Assembly easily, but may have trouble in the State Senate - Democrats only control 32 of the 62 seats, and at least 3 of them have voiced opposition to the legislation.

And with strong Republican opposition, the bill might not even come to a vote this year.

But as we have mentioned before, the tides are changing on this issue. The political statistics guru, Nate Silver, believes that more than half the states in the union could defeat theoretical gay marriage bans within the next five years.

By the middle of the next decade, we might very well talk about legalizing gay marriage nationally - and it may even be possible. Democratic Strategist Anne Greenberg recently told Salon that support for gay rights is increasing at a faster pace than support for race-and/or-gender-based civil rights did (although the rate of the support’s growth was still rather slow).

The GOP may be slow to recognize this growing support. Recently, the Miss USA pageant found itself in the middle of the gay marriage issue.

We never thought we’d say these next words: we have to agree with Perez Hilton.

Gay marriage is no longer an issue that conservatives should feel comfortable discussing on their terms - even religious terms. Far too many Americans have a deep support for LGBT rights these days, including marriage. Miss California's answer was too polarizing - not the question.

Some, like the former GOP Presidential candidate’s daughter, are catching on. Meghan McCain recently wrote in her Daily Beast column: “That more and more people are discussing gay rights speaks positively for the millions of young and progressive Republicans.” She has said in the past that if the GOP does not support gay marriage they will be on the losing side of history.

But who are some of these young and progressive Republicans? The answer might surprise you: evangelical kids.

From Greenberg’s answers to Salon:

"We did an oversample of young white evangelicals, and obviously this is a community who is very hostile to gay marriage. But what was interesting was that the same generational differences that we see in the population overall, we saw in evangelicals. It turns out that the majority of young white evangelicals oppose gay marriage; [but] a majority, 57 percent, [support] some sort of legal recognition."

If Republicans are going to have this sort of confusion within their ranks it seems even more unlikely that they will be able to use the gay marriage issue the way they have in the months and years ahead.

Is the gay marriage issue back? Yes.

Do liberals have to fear? Not anymore.

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