Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Month in Marriage Equality: January Part 1

It's early in 2012, but the year has already seen a lot of positive steps for marriage equality and in disparate parts of the country. January has seen a lot of news. Some of it has been bad, but much of it has been encouraging.

In 2009, Maine passed a referendum overturning marriage equality in the state. Just over two years later, over 105,000 signatures were gathered to get marriage equality back on the books via referendum. Only 57,000 signatures were needed. Equality advocates in Maine are confident that they can attain a victory come November, especially with polls showing that a majority of Mainers are in favor of legal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples. As time goes by, assuming the trends hold, those numbers should only improve and Maine will be that much freer for its citizens.

NH Governor John Lynch
In New Hampshire, the Republican-led legislature seems poised to pass a repeal of the state’s marriage equality law (which has been in effect for three years). The Governor, Democrat John Lynch, has promised to veto the proposed repeal. It seemed from the get-go, however, that Republicans had the this repeal in the bag. After all, the party has veto-proof majorities in both legislative houses. It has recently come to light that the deal is still not sealed. Some Republicans, of a more libertarian strain, are against repeal of the law. The Majority Leader of the Senate has also allowed members to vote their consciences instead of holding the “party line.” Though the measure will most likely still pass, it may not make it past the Governor’s promised veto. Let’s hope not.

Addendum: It was announced later in the week in which this was posted that the New Hampshire legislature would abandon its effort to repeal the state's marriage equality law in favor of focusing on economic and education issues. Ironically, this was announced on the very day that the repeal was to be voted on.

NC Governor Beverly Perdue
North Carolina is one of two states that will have a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would bar marriage equality. The difference is that North Carolina will not be waiting for Election Day in November. Instead, the question will be decided on May 8th. The bad news is that not only does this give equality advocates less time, but it is also the day of the state’s Republican presidential primary. While it sounds like it gives the opposition a huge advantage, there is some good news. It was announced this past week North Carolina’s Democratic governor will not be seeking reelection. Because of this, Democrats in the state will need to choose someone to run against the Republican challenger. This will help to bring out more progressive/liberal voters on Primary day and increase the chances that this amendment will not pass. There is still a lot of work to be done because it is an uphill battle in this state, but this may just be enough to ultimately tip the balance. This will go down to the wire.

Something else to keep in mind is that by early May, the GOP presidential nomination may be all but over (or it may just not be competitive at that point) which would affect conservative turnout. The North Carolina Primary will take place long after “Super Tuesday,” so we will have to wait and see how that impacts NC.

Minnesota is the other state that will see a constitutional ballot measure banning marriage equality (both states already bar marriage equality statutorily). Poll in the state have been trending in a pro-gay direction, as is the case in much of the nation. A recent poll showing that the pro-gay side of the debate had a 53-45 advantage. It is likely that the presidential race will have a large effect on which side gets a better turnout. With many Republicans nationally dissatisfied with their choices, it may be that they just decide to sit out, although many rank-and-file Democrats are also somewhat unhappy with President Obama. This is most likely an issue that will come down to the wire.

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