Why would it be that about half of Americans want to deny same sex couples the right to marry? Indeed, why would conservatives want to let same sex couples get away without the legal features that Marriage provides to protect the rest of society with respect to debt and other responsibilities?* It was not long ago that a majority of Americans were against same-sex marriage, with varying degrees of support for inadequate social contracts such as civil unions. Very recently, according to Nate Silver’s calculus, pro-gay marriage opinions have a slim majority, and an absolute majority (about 51%), which is, unfortunately, a little softer than ideal.
In November, a lot of things will happen related to same sex marriage. For example, now that Obama has come out supporting same-sex marriage, and Scissor-hands Romney is now running full steam against same-sex marriage, the role of this issue in the minds of the electorate is key to both gay rights and the presidential election (and thus, well, gay rights…SCOTUS is at stake after all). Of the nine states considered to be the most swing with respect to the presidential election, five have prohibitive laws passed over a range of time (Pennsylvania in 1996, Ohio in 2004, Virginia and Colorado in 2006, and Florida in 2008), two swing states have restrictive laws that are less severe (Nevada passed in 2002 and Wisconsin in 2006) and only two allow same sex marriage (Iowa and New Hampshire, both passed in 2009).
That bodes poorly for both progressives seeking to re-elect Obama and everyone trying to expand same-sex marriage, unless the pro same-sex marriage trend is strong. Which it might be. In fact, that might be the main news of this year’s election cycle.
On the positive side, the issue of same-sex marriage being central this year will result in mutually beneficial outcomes. In Minnesota, we have a ballot question that would make same-sex marriage illegal constitutionally. The measure’s language leaves it open to being struck down by courts (maybe even before the balloting) and the presence of this initiative along with an anti-democracy voter ID rule will bring progressives out in November. We expect heavy campaigning by progressives in three or four congressional districts to push out Tea-Party Temps or other Republicans, along with a really annoying Republican controlled state house and a federal senatorial race along with whatever pull-in Obama provides to support efforts against the initiatives. In other words, we are hoping for a perfect storm of issues and candidates to produce a defining moment in state history and to be one of the first states to resoundingly squash an anti-gay same-sex marriage amendment.
In a sense, this election year will be a barometer of both strength of progressive will and ability for different groups to work together on common (or nearly common) progressive goals. The unknown factor (other than factors that are, well, unknown) is the interaction between the African American vote (which helped Obama win in ’08) and less than friendly feelings towards same-sex marriage by some self-identified Democrats who are African American. Everybody has to remember this rule: No pulling the damn ladder up into the tree house no matter who you are, who is already up there, and who isn’t there yet.**
The best graphic of the year award is probably going to go to Nate Silver for producing a trend line graph showing opposition to vs. support of gay marriage over the last several years, which shows a very interesting pattern. This graph was so good last August when first produced that Silver did it again a few days ago with added data that, shall we say, harden the conclusion that pro same-sex marriage opinion is an absolute majority. I couldn’t resist making a crude moving GIF showing both graphs together. Not work safe and below the fold: Continue reading