What impact will 2010 elections have on same-sex marriage movement?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Going into the highly anticipated Fall 2010 midterm elections, there are some 27 bi-cameral state legislatures which are controlled by the Democratic Party and 14 bi-cameral state legislatures under Republican control.

Another 8 state legislatures are divided between the Democrats and Republicans whereas one party controls the State Senate; the other the General Assembly. Nebraska, unique in the Nation, maintains a non-partisan, unicameral state legislature.

Red represents legislatures controlled by Republicans
 Blue represents legislatures controlled by Democrats
Purple represents split legislatures
As for Governorships, the Democrats maintain a plurality going into November, as well. Twenty-six states have a Democrat Governor while twenty-three have a Republican. 

Florida’s current Governor, Charlie Crist, who is running for Senate in Florida recently changed party from Republican to Independent after facing defeat in the Republican primary against Marco Rubio, making Florida the only state with neither a Democrat nor Republican governor.
Of the twenty-seven states controlled by the Democratic Party, seven of them have seen or are expected to see important legislative battles on the issue of same-sex marriage.

In New Hampshire, a state in which same-sex marriage became legal on January 1 this year saw two attempts shortly after the law went into effect to restore the traditional definition of marriage in the state. The constitutional amendment proposal failed 201 – 135 while the follow-up attempt to repeal the recently enacted same-sex marriage law failed 210 – 109.

Going into November, the Democratic Party holds a majority in the New Hampshire House of Representatives 219 –174 and there are 7 vacancies. The State Senate is also Democratic-controlled, but not by such a wide margin. Fourteen Democrats hold the majority over ten Republicans.

Louis Jacobson, a staff writer with PolitiFact.com and former deputy editor of Roll Call, claims that both the New Hampshire State House and State Senate are toss-ups. He writes:  “Both chambers of the legislature are tossups, both the narrowly divided Senate and the enormous state House, where Democrats demonstrated in 2006 that a party can flip many seats in a single election.”

Whether or not a change from blue to red in New Hampshire’s state legislature will have an impact on the state’s same-sex marriage law remains to be seen and is likely dependent on who wins the gubernatorial election.

Governor John Lynch of
New Hampshire
John Lynch, a Democrat who campaigned against same-sex marriage for years only to sign the gay marriage bill in 2009 has been hovering at or just below 50% throughout the year. He was +11 against likely challenger John Stephen in a poll of 500 likely voters by Rasmussen Reports from August 5, 2010. New polling data from that race is ought to be coming soon but any incumbent polling on average under 49% over the past seven months is vulnerable.

In a state where 73% feel their personal finances are getting “worse” or are “about the same” and in a state where Barack Obama defeated John McCain by 10 points, the President is holding onto a 49% approval rating. Even the President acknowledges that the economic recovery is sluggish, therefore, an opinion that the economy is “about the same” is negative, not positive.

New Jersey is not holding any state legislative elections this year so perhaps a handful of the Garden State’s progressive politicians will be spared the coming GOP wave. It was last November, however, when the state saw its GOP wave in the election of Republican Chris Christie and the defeat of incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine.

Republican Christ Christie was elected
Governor of New Jersey, ousting liberal
Democrat Jon Corzine. Christie is seen as
a rising star in the Republican Party.
As you can remember, December 2009 was a critical month for those in favor of and opposed to, same-sex marriage. With Democratic majorities in the State House and State Senate and liberal Democrat Jon Corzine in the Governor’s Mansion, New Jersey was on track to be the next U.S. State to legalize same-sex marriage. Then Chris Christie happened - a Republican who believes in marriage between a man and a woman was elected Governor in a reliably Democrat state.

This is undeniably the single most important factor in the defeat of the same-sex marriage bill. Realizing a Republican opposed to same-sex marriage was on his way in, the Democrats scurried and attempted to pass same-sex marriage while Governor Corzine was on his way out. The bill failed after the holiday break by a 20 – 14 vote twelve days before the new governor was inaugurated.

As long as Christie is Governor, and short of any judicial action, the prospects for any attempt at legalizing same-sex marriage through legislative action are dim although there will not be any change in the Democrat’s majority of the state legislature.

Around the same time, New York State was flirting with its same-sex marriage bill, which had been passed multiple times by the New York General Assembly, majority Democrat 107 – 42 but had been held up by the State Senate, where the Democrats hold a two seat advantage over the Republicans 32 – 30.

The New York General Assembly passed the same-sex marriage bill in April 2009 by an 89 – 52 vote. In November, the State Senate opened a special session to take on economic matters and to consider the same-sex marriage bill but ultimately it was postponed until the end of the year.  On December 2, it was soundly defeated 38 – 24 in the Senate after the General Assembly passed it again 88 – 51.

Governor Patterson's approval
ratings along with numerous
scandals forced him out of the race.
New York’s current Governor, the legally blind David Patterson, had championed the bill and aggressively sought its passage, promising to sign it into law. Patterson, sporting record low approval ratings eventually bowed out of the 2010 gubernatorial election paving the way for the popular Andrew Cuomo to announce his bid to become New York’s next governor.

Cuomo has been openly supportive of same-sex marriage on the campaign trail and is highly expected to win in November. A late August poll from Rasmussen Reports puts Andrew Cuomo +32 points over likely Republican nominee Rick Lazio.

Yet the Governor’s Mansion is not where a GOP take-over is expected. Nor in the General Assembly.  Both are predicted to remain under Democratic control after November.

It’s the State Senate that’s possibly in for a GOP take-over. For a Senate chamber that voted against same-sex marriage with a Democrat majority, the prospects for passage of same-sex marriage in a Republican Senate are all the more less likely. Louis Jacobson writes of the election: “Despite a cycle of party switches, lockouts, fiscal problems, a dysfunctional relationship with the governor and an excess of scandal-tarred figures, the slim Democratic majority is getting away with a designation of tossup, thanks to the state's general Democratic lean…".

Rhode Island is an interesting state. The Democrats in the State House and State Senate hold a larger majority in a legislative chamber than I’ve ever seen. The Democrats control the State House by more than an 11-to-1 margin with 69 Democrats and 6 Republicans. Similarly, the Rhode Island State Senate outnumbers Republicans by more than an 8-to-1 margin with 33 Democrats and 4 Republicans.  Barack Obama won the state by nearly a 28-point margin over John McCain in 2008. Today he’s enjoying an approval rating of about 56%, which represents more than an 8-point drop in support.

Rhode Island’s last two governors have been Republicans and the party has occupied the Governor’s Mansion since 1995. Somehow the state has remained a beachhead of reason in liberal New England, not having legalized same-sex marriage as its neighbors to the North and West have.

Rhode Island's current governor, Donald Carcieri, is a
strong advocate for traditional marriage. 
Rhode Island’s current Governor, Donald Carcieri, is a strong advocate of marriage between a man and a woman and a member of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage but is barred from seeking a third term due to term limits. He’s leaving office with an approval rating at about 49% up against 48% who disapprove.

The election this November between Clinton-backed Frank Caprio, former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee and John Robitaille, a Republican and current aide to outgoing Governor Carcieri, is a toss-up according to the Cook Political Report, the New York Times, Real Clear Politics and CQ Politics.

Most recent polling from Rasmussen Reports puts Caprio 6-points ahead of Chafee and 18-points up on Robitaille. That poll was taken in mid-August. Again, new polling data ought to be coming.

A spokesman from the Caprio campaign told OneMan-OneWoman.org that Caprio was for same-sex marriage, citing a pledge Caprio made at a March, 2010 rally to sign a same-sex marriage bill if it were to reach his desk. Lincoln Chafee, a known supporter of same-sex marriage, who was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign when running for Senate, made the same pledge.

However, Caprio also claims to be a practicing Catholic and personally against same-sex marriage. In a January 2009 interview, Caprio said: "I would continue to be consistent with personal views and if I could wave a magic wand I would like if people followed my views and my church's teachings...If I were to run [for governor] I wouldn't be running to advocate [same-sex marriage]."

His pledge to support same-sex marriage also drew skepticism from Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who referenced the same interview. Lynch has since dropped out of the primary, set for September 14.

Iowa, a state that voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by over 9 points is not looking at Democrats so favorably this time around. The President is currently holding onto a 48% approval rating.

Iowa’s State Senate is majority Democrat 32 – 18 over the Republicans. Jacobson categorized the State Senate as leaning Democrat. Likewise, the State House is run by a 56 – 44 majority of Democrats and is categorized as a toss-up.

Republicans tried a handful of times in 2009 to force a vote on a same-sex marriage ban, all of which ultimately failed or were ruled out of order by the Democratic majority. In fact, the leader of said Democratic majority, Senator Gronstal, vowed to block a vote on a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman “at every opportunity.”

The political atmosphere is boosting the GOP’s chances at “winning back one or both of the state's legislative chambers,” Jacobson said. “The state House is a tossup and the state Senate leans Democratic, but these ratings could bounce around in the coming months.”

Former Republican Governor Terry
Branstad is vying for his old job back.
Meanwhile, Real Clear Politics has placed the Iowa gubernatorial race in the “likely GOP” column, with polls favoring Republican challenger and former Governor Terry Branstad +16 in the poll from Rasmussen Reports from August. Iowa’s current governor, Chet Culver, refused to intervene in the state’s 2009 legalization of same-sex marriage by judicial order. Culver is holding onto a 37% approval and a stark 61% disapproval rating.

Three of the judges who voted to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, including the state’s Chief Justice, are up for a retention vote this year and Republican Bob Vander Plaats from Sioux City has organized a campaign called “Iowa for Freedom” to oust them. Governor Culver is openly critical of the effort.

Is it conceivable that a newly elected Republican majority in the State House and/or the State Senate, alongside their likely Republican counterpart in the Governor’s Mansion would seek to pass a constitutional amendment and put the issue before the voters of Iowa? They attempted as the minority party, they’ll go for it as the ruling party for sure. When the Republicans controlled the Iowa State House in 2005, they passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The State Senate at the time was evenly divided and never took a vote on the issue.

Iowa’s neighbor to the North is another state where this year’s midterm elections will play a role in the future of same-sex marriage in America. Democrats in the Minnesota State Senate outnumber Republicans by more than a 2-to-1 margin with 46 Democrats and 21 Republicans. The State House is not as tilted against the Republicans but the Democrats still enjoy a commanding majority with 87 seats to the Republicans’ 47 seats. Due to what Louis Jacobson ties to Minnesota’s fiscal situation, “a shift of control – especially in the House – isn’t out of the question.”

Efforts at amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage failed as recently as 2009. Likewise, attempts to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in the State House and State Senate were never given hearings in their respective Judiciary Committees.

The fate of those bills were not very positive anyway, as the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, a likely 2012 presidential contender staunchly defended traditional marriage throughout his political career. That is why this year’s gubernatorial election will be the key factor in deciding the fate of same-sex marriage in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Republican Tom Emmer is tied with Democrat Mark Dayton
in a recent poll by Minnesota Public Radio. 
Most recent polling data courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio has Republican State Representative Tom Emmer, who opposes same-sex marriage and former State Senator Mark Dayton, who supports same-sex marriage, tied at 34 points apiece with Independent candidate Tom Horner, also a supporter of same-sex marriage, racking in 13 points. In the same poll, 44% said if Barack Obama were to endorse Mark Dayton, they would be less likely to vote for him.

Nonetheless, the July – August average of polling data on Real Clear Politics puts Mark Dayton up 8.3 points and thus the state is categorized as “lean Democratic”. Minnesotans haven’t elected a Democratic governor since 1986. Yet a victory by the Democrats in November in the election of Mark Dayton as Governor may inject life and a sense of opportunity to pass same-sex marriage legislation.

In Maryland, while the strong Democratic majorities in the State House (104 – 36) and State Senate (33 – 14) are not considered to be in play this November, the race for the next Governor is considered a toss-up.

Same-sex marriage advocates have been touting recent polling from Maryland that indicates that a plurality of voters in Maryland support same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian activists inaccurately portrayed the polling data as a ‘majority’ when in fact it was merely a ‘plurality’.

Nevertheless, the data puts Maryland on our scopes for states endangered by the homosexual agenda as the polling data from the Washington Post undoubtedly encouraged anxious activists to expand their agenda into the Old Line State. Most recent polling data from Rasmussen Reports puts Republican and former Governor Bob Ehrlich and incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley tied at 47%.

Maryland is a solidly blue state like New Jersey and is giving President Obama a 56% approval rating, (45% disapproval rating), only two years after the state voted for him over McCain by more than 25 points. Likewise, 54% of Marylanders approve of the job O’Malley is doing compared to a 45% disapproval rating. The two-percent discrepancy between Obama and O’Malley are unsure how they feel about the latter. At the same time, 55% of Marylanders felt the economy was in “poor” condition and 64% felt the economy was “getting worse” or was “about the same” compared to 31% who felt the economy was “better”.

Nevertheless, a Democratic governor with a 54% approval rating in a Democratic state won by a Democratic president two years ago by 25 points should be safe. Yet the race is categorized as a toss-up and the results could be critical in the struggle against same-sex marriage.

By no means are these seven states the only states where this year’s midterm elections will have a significant impact on the course of and determine the success or failure of same-sex marriage in the near future. The seven states are merely quick glimpse into some of the more embattled regions of the Nation where the issue is more on the forefront than we’d actually want it to be.

Across the Nation, the current economic situation, budget deficits, a growing federal government, high taxes, government bailouts, Obamacare, and unemployment, among a slew of other problems intensified by Barack Obama’s domestic agenda are for sure having at least one unintended consequence for gays and lesbians and their supporters: decreased likelihood of successful legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and founder of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an online newsletter that touts nearly 100% accuracy predicting U.S. House, U.S. Senate and Governor races, as well as Electoral College results since 2004, is currently predicting that the GOP will pick up some 8 governorships and gain 300 - 500 seats in state legislatures across the land resulting in taking majority control in at least 8, possibly up to 12 state legislative chambers.

This carries significant meaning as the next legislative sessions will be using data collected by the 2010 Census for appropriation of representation in Congress and the redistricting of their congressional districts. The majority party gets to draw the lines.

Running a campaign focused on fiscal issues, the Republican candidate for Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, has been leading in the polls by double digits. LePage is socially conservative, having posted on his campaign website “I also support traditional marriage, joining a majority of Maine voters who decided last fall that the traditional definition of marriage should be preserved.”

If elected, LePage will be replacing Governor Baldacci, who signed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in 2008. Most recent polling data from Public Policy Polling has LePage up 14 points against Democratic challenger and a 32-point lead over the Independent challenger. His election is critical due to the fact that the State House, which voted to approve same-sex marriage, is not considered to be in play this November and considering the fact that Jesse Connolly, the campaign manager for Protect Maine Equality, had this to say after Mainers rejected same-sex marriage in 2008: "We'll be here fighting. We'll be working. We will regroup."

The State Senate, however, is. Louis Jacobson says: “The nearly 2-to-1 Democratic margin in the state House should hold even in a tough midterm cycle for the party. But the state Senate, which is much closer and which has often been competitive in past cycles, is in play once again. Maine's celebrated independent streak and its public-financing law could meld with anti-incumbent sentiments to produce a volatile fight for control. It rates leans Democratic for now, but that could change.”

It is fair to say that, according to the current political winds, which everyone must accept can change rapidly, that the GOP is going to do very well this November. This success will undoubtedly create a safer legislative environment for the institution of marriage and families.

Having said that, one must keep in mind why the GOP is expected to do so well this year. After all, they are not necessarily popular with the voters, either. In this way, many frustrated and angry voters will be voting Republican this year as it is the lesser of two evils.

So why are the Republicans expecting huge political gains this November? The answer to that question is what (or more likely, who) gays and lesbians can blame and conservatives can thank, for stalled legislative efforts to redefine marriage in the next couple years.


Anonymous said...

This is a question rather than a comment; How is it that one man, a judge, can overturn a majority vote of the people of california?

Beats me. I am one of those people who comprise that majority of people who voted for Proposition 8. Now my vote has been erased and the votes of the people who lost have been affirmed. Democracy?

Anonymous said...

Constitutional democracy, yes. People's civil rights are not up for a vote in a Constitutional democracy. That is why we have judges. If judges merely affirm a law, then what is their purpose. Their purpose within our Constitutional framework is to judge the constitutionality of a law, and Prop 8 clearly fails when assessed in light of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Anonymous said...

One can only pray for this nation, & it's leaders!!!

JT said...

Pray for yourself. Jesus said it best when he said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's. CIVIL rights belong to the government, not God.

And a single judge can overturn the will of the people when people are too stupid to realize that what they're voting on is against the constitution. Those who want to bring religion into everything fail to see that point, because they fail to see that religion isn't everyting in the United States. For some, it's nothing at all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous #1 and Louis:

Is it possible that the two of you skipped civics class? I ask this in all sincerity. There is a little thing called judicial review, which has been the law of the land since Marbury v. Madison in 1801. You might want to look it up, since you seem to think we live in a mob rule democracy instead of a constitutional republic with checks and balances.

Bless your heart, Louis,

Anonymous said...

PS to Louis:

Can you explain how you voted for Prop 8 since you don't live in California? You state that your vote was erased, yet you could not possibly have voted in that election.

Inquiring minds want to know, Louis.

Bless your heart, Louis,

amiworking said...


This article is horribly cold. Could you please take a step back and stop transforming our lives and our relationships into a political issue?

How does a man like you, who is otherwise so very intelligent, end up in a position where he spends so much time trying to cause other couples harm by forbidding them basic dignity enough to marry the person they love?

There is no "threat to traditional marriage". There never has been and there never will be. Simply understanding that LGBT couples have the right and ability to marry the person they love according to their personal convictions and their own religious beliefs in no way, shape, or form hinders, prevents, or changes the fact that heterosexual couples always will get married.

Please stop hurting us, Louis.



I moved to California in 2006, obtained my driver's license in January, 2007 while living in San Diego. In October, 2007 I traveled to Russia where I am at the moment but voted via absentee ballot.

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