The Washington Post

Gay marriage wave shows major shift

Gay marriage legislation has moved forward over the past week from coast to coast, a sign of a changing tide.

Rachel Baker, left, and Christine Tully wait in line to get their marriage license at the Manhattan City Clerk's office in New York, on Sunday, July 24, 2011. (Jin Lee/Bloomberg)

In California, a federal appeals court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, declaring it unconstitutional.

In New Jersey, the state Senate passed a bill to legalize gay marriage, two years after a similar measure went down in defeat.

And on Monday Washington became the seventh state to legalize gay marriage when Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) signed it into law.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is pushing for gay marriage legislation, but he’s short a few votes and says the bill needs more Republican support.

In 2004, gay marriage bans were on the ballot in 11 states, helping drive social conservative turnout for President Bush. In those states, exit polls found that for a quarter of voters, “moral values” were the most important issue.

Now, eight years later, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign ad denouncing homosexuality was widely mocked and split his own advisers.

Gay marriage is still an issue in the GOP primary. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has appeared at an anti-gay marriage rally in Washington. Romney has added a line about gay marriage to his stump speech. The gay conservative group GOProud was excluded from this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Public opinion is moving on the issue of same sex civil marriage, but the division among some on the right is about much more than the single issue of marriage — it is at its core about anti-gay bigotry,” said GOProud president Jimmy LaSalvia. “They are going to lose, but don’t expect them to give up quietly.”

Yet even in the GOP primary, abortion and contraception have proved far more potent. As former Bush strategist Mark McKinnon put it last year, “The wedge has lost its edge.”

With the public evenly divided on the issue as support increases and opposition decreases, pitched battles over same-sex marriage may be a thing of the past — and marriage laws rather than marriage bans may be the mark of the 2012 election.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.


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