Not a quiet week in Lake Wobegon

05.08.2012, 9:55 PM

It’s been an interesting few days.  On the one hand, President Obama and the national Democratic Party continue to inch closer and closer to a formal embrace of gay marriage.  You can believe that Biden’s comments and Arne’s comments were off-the-cuff and unscripted, ala the New York Times’ take; or you can believe (as I do) that they are part of some very careful political choreography; but in either case, one of our two national parties, at least at the elite level,  has now all but made it official in favor of gay marriage.

Meanwhile, in the swing state of North Carolina, apparently most people didn’t get the memo.  On Amendement One, which would constitutionally ban not only gay marriage (which is already illegal  in NC) but also civil unions and domestic partnerships, the antis were working with a major fundraising advantage (apparently a 2 to 1 advantage, ht to out-of-state liberals) and the support of great numbers of  oh-so-impressive-at-least-so-they-think elites and other commentators, both in the state and outside of it (including yours truly and Elizabeth Marquardt), but today the people of North Carolina actually got to vote, and the yeses have won, apparently decisively.

I’m not sure, but my sense is that elites in most places in both parties are now essentially pro-ssm, either because they believe in it, or because they don’t want to fight it anymore.  But most grass roots voters, including super-strong majorities in many parts of the Sunbelt, clearly aren’t buying, at least yet, notwithstanding the larger trends in national pubic opinion toward greater support for recognition of gay and lesbian families and for gay rights in general, especially among the young.  Are we now headed for a long end-game, blue/red-state culture war that also sharply pits the two parties against one another?  (Sigh.)  What do you all think?


14 Responses to “Not a quiet week in Lake Wobegon”

  1. Chris Gable says:

    Thoughts in a bit David, but I believe the ant-gay side (I think we can call people who want to ban any type of civil union anti-gay?) spent 2.2 million, and the pro-gay rights people, 2.1 million.

    I think a lot of people saw this coming and didn’t bother donating.

  2. Chris Gable says:

    Partly correct, but there are a few things you’re missing David.

    The turnout NC today was 34%. This is a primary election day. In primaries the electorate is generally quite a bit older, and independents (that nationally support marriage equality at 57% according to today’s Pew poll) don’t generally vote in primaries.

    Of course, this is NC, a very conservative state. Though polling also showed that support for this amendment dropped to 44% from 55% when it was explained that it banned civil unions, apparently that message didn’t get out.

    I think we’ll see a red state/blue state divide, but we see that with gay rights now. 21 states have nondiscrimination laws that include sexual orientation — 18 of them have voted for the Democrat in the last five Presidential elections. Conversely, of the 20 states that ban civil unions and domestic partnerships in their constitutions, 15 of them have voted for the GOP, except for a couple Clinton picked up, in every election since 1964.

    (Btw, here is Nate Silver’s (538 blog at the NYT) sense of how ballot measures would play out if held in November 2012, state by state. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/the-future-of-same-sex-marriage-ballot-measures/ Here is the Guardian’s roundup of the gay rights in every state today – notice there are no protections of any kind in any southern state. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2012/may/08/gay-rights-united-states)

    So, there already is a red/blue state divide on the rights of gay people. The GOP, the religious right (including some here) are very much against any kind of relationship recognition for gay people, and even nondiscrimination laws. That’s nothing new.

    However, we will have several states enacting marriage equality in the next two years: NJ, RI, IL, DE, HI, CA (via the Perry case) come to mind. (Looks like CO will pass civil unions later today btw.)

    We’ll probably see voters approve marriage laws in WA and ME, and perhaps MD. I think MD and MN are toss ups this year.

    Very importantly, we’ll the federal recognition ban in DOMA being struck down by SCOTUS in 2014 and that will be important and symbolic — of you live in a state that recognizes your marriage you have full civil equality but if you live in the state next door that doesn’t you’ve got nothing (the fed gov’t might not even recognize your marriage if your state doesn’t – that is not settled law now) and that will be terrible optics for the anti-equality side.

    Starting in 2014 I think we’ll see states begin to repeal marriage amendments via ballot initiative: OR and NV. In 2016 (and I do think this has to be on general election days – of course our side will pick the dates because we’ll be driving repeal) we’ll see WI, MI, OH, CO.

    Around that time I think you’ll NM and PA enacting marriage.

    So, yes, red/blue. But the red states are going to look increasingly, as NC does tonight, mean-spirited. Denying basic protections to decent couples who just want to protect and build a life with each other, and their kids if any.

  3. Chris Gable says:

    One question David, “elites in both parties”? Thinkers and advisors, perhaps, but certainly not legislators.

    Here’s a stat that illustrates my point: only 5 GOP House members voted for DADT repeal – 5, of then 170. Only one GOPer is a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal DOMA, while 132 Democrats are, 33 Dem Senators co-sponsor the Senate version, zero GOPers do.

  4. Thrasymachus says:

    Chris Gable:

    North Carolina is not a “very conservative state.” Barack Obama carried it in 2008, and the state regularly elects Democratic governors and senators.

    Red states are not the only ones to have enacted constitutional bans on same sex marriage. The largest swing states – Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia – all have constitutional and not just statutory bans in place. Obama won all these states in 2008.

    There are very good reasons why the President has been forced to tread carefully on this subject. The contrast between elite and mass opinion that David noted is especially striking. Most of the people who urge the President to be a more outspoken advocate of gay marriage live and work in social circles where virtually everyone, even self-described conservatives, favor the idea. I agree that the long term trend is in favor of marriage equality, but as a Florida resident – close to ground zero in the culture wars – the road ahead does not seem to be nearly as smooth or as easy as your optimistic forecast suggests.

  5. La Lubu says:

    So, yes, red/blue. But the red states are going to look increasingly, as NC does tonight, mean-spirited.

    I agree with Chris Gable’s assessment on this part. I don’t know that there will be a “long game” fight ahead; demographics say otherwise (the younger the person, the more likely he/she is pro-marriage equality). What I see as the nail in the coffin for the anti-marriage equality side is the other culture-war issues that go hand-in-hand with their views on LGBT people (women’s rights, birth control, abortion, school prayer and/or privatization of US schools, Islamophobia, etc.). The activist portion of the anti-marriage equality has an agenda that doesn’t stop with LGBT people; an agenda that most folks (whether self-identified “conservatives” or “liberals”) already disagree with—and recognize would impact them (most heterosexual folks don’t think marriage equality impacts them, but you better believe they recognize the anti-birth control push impacts them!).

    Here in the midwest, there’s a strong cultural belief in privacy and minding one’s own business. That how people run their lives—as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else—is their business, not everyone else’s. This cultural trope transcends race, ethnicity, religion, political party or views, or any other cultural marker. The civil union law here in Illinois passed on that view more than any other—most conservative people here don’t see SSM as harmful, just as none of their business.

    As one of the bona-fide “non-elites”, I rarely encounter any opposition to SSM. Granted, the circles I run in tend to lean to the left (labor union members, UUs, Democrats, working-class folks—trust, in Illinois, the working class isn’t primarily “red”), but still. Here, the divide isn’t so much conservative/liberal, but “those who want the power to run other people’s personal lives” vs. everyone else.

    (probably worth noting that the definition of “conservative” is a floating one. Most of the people around here who ID as conservative simply mean that they prefer market solutions to socioeconomic problems rather than legislative ones. That differs from what I perceive to be its common use on this blog, which is socially conservative.)

  6. Chris Gable says:

    Thras, I talking about states that always vote for the Democratic for President. Blue states, those 21 states are the ones that will legalize marriage in the next five years (if they haven’t already). Plus a few others: NV, CO, possibly OH.

    We get to 25 states and then it gets tougher.

    BUT, the biggest influence here will be SCOTUS’ striking doen in 2014 (or possibly 2013) the federal recognition ban aspect of DOMA. That will put much more pressure on the states that don’t have equality

    Then there is the question of which states can bring initiative constitutional amendments to the ballot (by passing the legislature). These are mostly western and midwestern states. Southern states generally don’t allow for that, so they will be the very last states hold out. (Like they are on everything throughout US history.)

    Speaking personally, if I lived in the south, I would not be optimistic either. Thankfully, the south is always a follower, never a leader, in our country.

    Last night NC looked gay people in the eye and did something (banning any type of relationship recognition) in EM and DB’s words “mighty cold”.

  7. Chris Gable says:

    I’d strongly suggest looking at Nate Silver’s projection (based on general election turnout (which is about twice what NC had yesterday and a lot younger). http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/the-future-of-same-sex-marriage-ballot-measures/

  8. Chris Gable says:

    President Obama supports loving gay couples being able to marry in civil ceremonies. Today!

  9. Matthew says:

    If you believe that antis had a 2-1 advantage in spending over the pros, you must be reading NOM’s press releases. According to the filings, the official campaigns were about equal, with a small advantage to the antis. But, of course, that does not count the amount of money spent by churches, which was considerable, or the “in kind” contributions of sermons from the pulpit.

    The anti campaign was, as Claude Summers argues at glbtq.com, both strategically flawed and duplicitous. The pro campaign was frankly disgusting, but bigotry is apparently popular in North Carolina.

  10. Chris Gable says:

    Matthew has a point David. What do you read (that would have items about these issues?). I can remember you citing The Christian Post here, and your go-to source seems to be the New York Times (you seem very invested in the NYT; didn’t MG once write “David believes in the New York Times”?), but what else do you read.

    NB: I know you are well read, obviously, so this isn’t a Sarah Palin moment. I’m just curious because I think it informs your positions and if you want to understand the state of the various laws affecting gay people, you’d need to read more broadly.

    No direct or implied criticism, just a suggestion that if your goal is to, short of marriage of course, support gay people/couples then more research would be required.

    Earnestly, I hope I’ve phrased that delicately enough.

  11. JeffreyRO5 says:

    It’s important to note that North Carolina’s anti-gay vote occurred on a Republican primary day. This is hardly representative of North Carolina’s entire population.

    All it proves is that it is still possible for religionists to cobble together a voting majority of people who oppose equal legal rights for gays and lesbians. What a triumph!

    And it is pushes the issue of same-sex marriage to the federal courts, since same-sex couples have no other choice once a state constitution bars marriage equality. I don’t see why the anti-gays think this is a good idea, if their goal is to ban same-sex marriage. The federal courts are not necessarily sympathetic to the idea of denying equal legal rights to gays and lesbians. See Prop 8. And the Supreme Court has issued some highly indicative rulings itself: see Roemer v. Evans, and Lawrence v. Texas. And yes, the US Supreme Court has the power to impose same-sex marriage on all 50 states if it wishes to!

  12. Metro Weekly reports that every single national Democratic leader (or at least, all those who are elected officials in a leadership position) has now endorsed marriage equality.

    This is now a solidly partisan issue, alas. We’ll see more Republicans going against their party on this in the future — young Republicans in particular are often eager to separate their party from anti-gay policies — but it might take a while.

  13. Chris Gable says:

    It seems to be reverberating. The Prime Minister of New Zealand endorsed marriage equality today. With NZ, the US, the UK, and Canada, can Australia be far behind?