September 5, 2007

It's a paradox that Dan Gilgoff looks at in The Politico:

One post-2004 study found that voters to whom gay marriage was a top issue were more than twice as likely to support President Bush if there was a gay marriage ban on the ballot in their state.[..]

The 2006 midterm elections, by contrast, showed that when the gay marriage question is overshadowed by other issues - in that instance, the Iraq war and the rash of Republican scandals - Democrats can win big.

When that happens, gays tend to benefit. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to expand federal hate crimes protections to homosexuals earlier this year. And unlike recent GOP-controlled Congresses, this one is not planning to take up an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.[..]

With the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses looming, last week's dramatic gay marriage "victory" in Polk County threatens to halt such incremental gains for gay rights.

As conservative religious activists in the Hawkeye State mobilize to amend Iowa's Constitution to ban gay marriage, the Republican presidential candidates best poised to benefit are those most hostile to gay rights: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and, perhaps, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

The Republican candidate most likely to suffer, of course, is the one with the most pro-gay-rights record: Rudy Giuliani. It's not too difficult to imagine ads juxtaposing the former New York mayor with Judge Robert Hanson, who struck down Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act last week, ruling that the state's marriage laws must be "applied in a gender-neutral manner."

Democratic presidential candidates, meanwhile, are being forced by the Polk County decision to carve out nuanced positions on an issue that Kerry proved in 2004 is extremely thorny for his party.

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