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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Gay Marriage: From “Why?” To “Why Not?”

One of the most imteresting aspects of last week’s Iowa Supreme Court decision striking down a statutory ban on same-sex marriage in that state was what didn’t happen: a big backlash that sent Democratic politicians running for the hills.
That would have likely happened just a few years ago, at the time when even quite progressive Democrats from “blue states” generally followed the “yes to civil unions, no to marriage” approach, while many Democrats in politically competitive states took an even harder anti-gay-marriage posture.
Contrast that to the joint statement put on Friday by Iowa’s Democratic state legislative leaders, Sen. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy:

Thanks to today’s decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens’ equal rights.
The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.
When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.
Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

Desmoinesdem at Bleeding Heartland has a roundup of other immediate Iowa Democratic reactions to the decision, and they are generally very positive.
And even Iowa Republicans had to rouse themselves to get upset. Just prior to the decision, when asked how the legislature might respond if the marriage ban were struck down, House GOP leader Kraig Paulson basically said they had better things to spend their time on, like the budget and the economy, referring to same-sex marriage as a “side issue.” Conservative activists weren’t real happy with that, so now GOP leaders are dutifully putting out statements of outrage and resolve.
The most notable reaction in the Des Moines Register, the state’s dominant media presence, was a Sunday article entitled: “Marriage Ruling May Boost Iowa Economy,” featuring more quotes from wedding plannings and tourism experts than from angry evangelical ministers.
What seems to have happened in the last few years, in Iowa as elsewhere, is that the question for politically and ideologically moderate voters on same-sex marriage has changed from “Why?” to “Why Not?” And that change in turn almost certainly reflects the lack of impact–other than images of smiling, happy couples–in states that have already legalized gay and lesbian marriages.
The trend in public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage availability is so strong that Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com has done a regression analysis that predicts when majority opinion in each state will reach that position in the future. He lists ten states as already in that category, with 13 more joining it by 2012, and even Mississippi coming along, as the last holdout, by 2024.
Cultural conservatives may continue to scream about “judicial activism” and usurpation of popular rights on this issue, but the ground is moving beneath their feet. And we’ve already reached the point where in large swaths of the country, opposition to same-sex marriage as a powerful conservative “wedge issue” is dead, thank God.
UPCATEGORY: Democratic Strategist

One comment on “Gay Marriage: From “Why?” To “Why Not?”

  1. unclebilly on

    The weakness of the judicial route for gay marriage is that it lacks the credibility of legislative or initiative action. I would prefer the route of civil partnerships and once it was clear that “the sky wasn’t falling”, go for the civil marriage. Here’s hoping this success inspires more.


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