Weeks after President Obama announced his support of same sex marriage on the eve of a fund-raising event at the Hollywood estate of actor George Clooney, many in his own party are asking “why?”—especially now, after two years of insisting his position on same-sex marriage was “evolving.”
Tim Carney may have provided a clue when he reported in the Washington Examiner: “About 20 percent of Obama’s bundlers — volunteer fundraisers — are gay, according to media reports, with many of them being gay rights activists. For example, Sally Susman has raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s re-election. Millionaire banking mogul Eugene Sepulveda is another gay half-million-dollar Obama bundler.”
But the enhanced funding Carney anticipates aside, Obama’s pro-gay marriage stance may endanger Democratic attempts to cling to their 53-to-47 seat majority in the Senate. The Wall Street Journal reports that in most competitive Senate races, “Democrats are keeping their distance from the president’s position.”
Five Democratic senators seeking re-election have voiced their disagreement with the president on the marriage issue: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va), Robert Casey, Jr. (Penn.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jon Testor (Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.). So has the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine.
Despite Ohio’s strong support for a marriage amendment in ’04, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has weighed in with the president on this issue. Brown’s Republican opponent, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, feels otherwise. In an interview with Human Events last week, Mandel said “Ohioans demonstrated in ’04 their support for traditional marriage when they overwhelming voted for an amendment saying just this. That’s my position, and it is an issue in this [Senate] race.”
The other Democratic Senate hopeful siding with the president on the marriage issue is Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is locked in a tight race in Nevada against Republican Sen. Dean Heller.
“The issue here is a toss-up, with voters about evenly split,” Nevada’s former Republican state legislator Pete Ernaut told Politico recently, “But that said, there are key constituencies affected by this, most notably Mormon voters—and specifically Democratic Mormon voters—and that is going to be a difficult issue for the president.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevadan and a Mormon, told reporters recently he expects that a pro-gay marriage plank will be included in the Democratic Party’s national platform this year.
Will marriage issue tip electoral votes as well?
With the lopsided vote (61 to 39 percent) in North Carolina earlier this month, the Tarheel State became the 31st state to enact legislation defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This ballot measure was particularly significant, as North Carolina is not only the site of the Democratic National Convention this summer but a state whose fifteen electoral votes went for Obama in ’08 and one he hopes to again carry in ’12.
Along with North Carolina, there are at least four other states that have enacted marriage amendments by resounding margins in the past decade that Obama is depending upon to secure re-election this fall: Colorado (9 electoral votes), Florida (29), Missouri (10) and Ohio (18).
Advocates of pro-marriage amendments have long maintained that support for their enactment translates into votes for Republican candidates who embrace the issue. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, chairman of the 2004 constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions, told Human Events that “it’s enactment by 62 percent of the voters almost certainly helped George W. Bush carry our electoral votes and Ohio is what finally re-elected him over John Kerry.”
Pro-marriage amendments may be on the ballot in other states this year. Maryland Republicans believe they can gain political ground from the state initiative on the November ballot to overturn the same-sex marriage law enacted by the Democratic-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The economy, however, is still expected to be the dominant issue that determines whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will occupy the White House in 2013. But those who say that gay marriage won’t have an important impact on the race and on key states clearly do so at their own peril.