“I saw a human pyramid once. It was very unnecessary.” – Mitch Hedberg
The barrage of vitriol and angst over the North Carolina vote to ban same sex civil unions has been quite impressive and is still ongoing. Both presidential candidates weighed in yesterday, which we’ll get to in a moment. First, just for some backdrop, let us consider the status of same sex marriage across the country. Six states allow same sex marriage, 42 do not, and 2 recognize same sex marriage from other states (Maryland, my current home state, is one of those two). In a country with those breakdowns in terms of accept/reject, the “shock” from the NC outcome seems a bit much. What exactly did anyone expect?
We took up the discussion a bit last night with some friends who were over and we mostly came to more-or-less the same conclusion. The two greatest commands are “love God” and “love your neighbor” – and while we will have great difficulty legislating the love of God or offense against God (to do so would presume us intermediaries with Him), we can have success legislating offense against the neighbor. Murder, theft, assault, rape – these are all instances where one is oppressed by another against their will. But homosexual relationships?
The president weighed in after the vote, taking some heat from liberals and choosing to come out in favor of gay marriage. It was a bold and possibly uncomfortable decision that is likely to cost him nothing – and also likely to gain him nothing. You’d have a hard time convincing me that there are people who will now vote for Obama that would have voted against him because of his new position. The reason is the same as we discussed yesterday: traditional liberal voters who oppose gay marriage are unlikely to turn and choose Mitt Romney over this. (I actually saw a headline yesterday asking whether black voters would punish Obama for this … really? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no.)
Mitt Romney also weighed in with “I have the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor. I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.” Given Romney’s mormonism, one wonders if he really meant that whole “a” woman business. Of course, if you combine mormonism’s polygamist tendancies with the gay marriage debate you quickly run into the conundrum of “brother wives” (hat tip to Steve Fisher for today’s title).
Pundits on both side of the debate are hailing this as a big win for their side. While I have my doubts I will note that there is some historical precedent for this issue impacting elections. I submit that the 2004 presidential election was a testament to the brilliance of Karl Rove. Faced with an unpopular president attempting re-election in the midst of an increasingly unpopular war, Rove was able to get gay marriage amendments on the ballots in some crucial swing states (most notably Ohio). The turnout benefit for Republicans was overwhelming and George W. Bush pulled of a narrow but not nail-biting victory.
Have we come to the point where the issue swings the other way and gives Obama a boost? I don’t think so. But I also don’t think the issue itself is enough to impact turnout. Rove pulled off his masterpiece by getting “direct democracy” measures on the ballot, which I doubt will be the case this time. The swing states have already voted. Gay marriage opponents are unlikely to call for another vote and proponents are surely smart enough to know that a vote likely hurts their side by increasing turnout from the opposition.