- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

While it is clear that the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the Texas sodomy law hastens the arrival of the debate about gay marriage, what that discussion will mean in the larger political universe is a little murkier. As excited as Democratic activists are about this potential new expansion of legitimacy to previously “marginalized” groups, we suspect that strategists on the left are (or should be) deeply concerned about this particular advance.

The activists can afford to applaud the commencement of this debate, but liberal strategists should see an issue which complicates an already difficult electoral situation in 2004 for the Democrats. For instance, when asked about the decision leading to the judicial recognition of gay marriages, about half of the respondents were negative about it (32 percent said it is a disaster, 18 percent indicated that they were not happy). One-fifth said it was about time. More ominously for the Democrats, about one-third of their constituents (self-identified liberals) were negative about the possible ramifications of the decision. Even moderates had trouble being moderate, with 40 percent indicating their displeasure.

Moreover, when asked specifically about the idea of homosexual marriages, 53 percent of respondents said they were opposed. The portion favoring such unions (18 percent) was smaller than the group that offered that they didn’t really care (27 percent). But problems lurk for Democrats inside those relatively unsurprising numbers. More than one-third (37 percent) of those who indicated that they would vote for John Kerry said they opposed homosexual marriages. Among the crucial moderate bloc, those who oppose homosexual marriages outnumberthose who favor them, 48 percent to 19 percent. While we suspect that the intensity on this issue may lessen over time, the numbers are unlikely to improve by next November’s contests.

Finally, we asked which party is most in tune with voters’ views on gay marriage. While there was an even split on the answer (32 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat), we note that 24 percent said they did not know. These responses suggest two things to us. First, there is a relatively large fragment of the vote (maybe as much as half) that is unaware where the parties stand on this issue. The debate in which we are about to engage should help clarify those stands. Second, a chunk of people who oppose gay marriages think the Democrats do, too. Again, that belief is probably unsustainable over the long-term, especially as the volume increases on this issue.

We wanted to offer two final thoughts on the implications of this issue. It is difficult to imagine that Democratic efforts to expand their beachhead in Hispanic communities, rooted in traditional values and long-established notions of families, can be as successful as they hope when some sizable fraction of the noise coming from the party is about dissolution of those long-established notions of families. Second, it is unclear what effect that noise will have on something as challenging as turn out in the three-times-a-weekchurchgoingAfrican-American community.

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