Social Issues Still Count!
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Last week was a milestone in modern American political history. The election results (New
Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races) and the battle over healthcare show that the
nation’s interest in social issues has not waned. New coalitions are forming around the
pivotal legislative concerns of our day. From my vantage point, I am noticing a passion
among individual citizens to engage in the political process - whether the topic is the
economy, healthcare, or gay marriage. The average citizen not only wants to express their
opinion, but also has become savvy in engaging the powers that be. The insight of these new
activists is shown in their ability to organize and get results. Over 20,000 people came to
DC last week to voice their concerns about healthcare.
On Tuesday, I was personally focused on the battle for marriage in Maine. It’s old news that
heterosexual marriage proponents were outspent by their adversaries who sent thousands of
volunteers to wage “political war” in the tiny state. Considered intensely liberal and the
most likely place where same-sex marriage advocates had a chance of winning, the nation was
shocked at the resounding defeat of gay marriage advocates.
Like California, Maine upheld the common sense definition of marriage after same-sex
“marriage” was forced into law against the will of its people. The vote on Question 1 upheld
marriage by the exact same margin as the vote on Proposition 8 (5 full percentage points),
even though the pro-marriage campaign in Maine was outspent by millions.
The victory of traditional marriage proponents was very convincing with success in 75% of
Maine’s counties (12 of 16). More Maine residents voted for marriage (266,000+) than voted
for Governor Baldacci (209,927) when he got elected in 2006. Importantly, in the state
capital of Augusta, the definition of marriage was upheld by marriage advocates (53% to
The press repeatedly asked me what the implications were of the Maine marriage victory.
First of all, the victory shows that the gay marriage activist projection of inevitability
is false. The inevitability argument has been levied so that marriage defenders would
quietly give up. Further, the inevitability argument has given many legislators “cover,” as
they vehemently oppose the will of the people. State senators or city council members often
have been led to believe that someday their stand will be seen as heroic instead of socially
destructive. If the inevitability argument were correct, there would be no political
consequences to voting based on pressure from powerful, well-financed gay marriage
Fortunately for the nation, same-sex marriage is not a done deal. The concept is not gaining
real ground among the common people. The famed Pew Research Center made the following
observation last month, “An August 2009 ... survey finds that 53% oppose allowing gays and
lesbians to marry legally, compared with 39% who support same-sex marriage, numbers that are
virtually unchanged over the past year.”
The fact that the nation has not changed its mind about same-sex marriage during the last
year is very revealing. Same-sex marriage advocates have made a lot of headway during the
last few years in convincing a small number of powerfully positioned judges and legislators
that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. Their arguments among the elite have been
effective, while the average citizen is not willing to endorse changing the institution of
marriage as an expression of civil rights.
This is especially obvious when one considers the history of the Maine same-sex marriage
advocacy efforts. Legalization of same-sex marriage has been intensely pursued for at least
five years in this state that is bordered by Canada and Massachusetts, both who have
legalized same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage foot soldiers put everything they had into
their effort - they developed 20 field offices manned by 30 paid staffers and raised
substantially more money than traditional marriage advocates. Their efforts were supported
by both national and local grassroots support. The pro same-sex marriage team was
sophisticated and well trained. The hallmark of their sophistication was that they recruited
an elaborate network of phone volunteers that interacted with Maine citizens, thinking that
a personal “sales call” would close the deal. Despite the time, money, and energy spent,
Maine residents did not buy the marriage pitch. Ironically, exactly the same percentage
number of voters opposed same-sex marriage in Maine as the national research said opposed it
Specifically, what does this mean for the DC struggle concerning marriage? It’s no secret
that the city council has vowed to act without consulting the citizens. Their reasoning is
simple. They have read the same polls everyone else has, yet they are so beholding to gay
marriage lobbyists that they must make this issue their most pressing policy concern…more
pressing than healthcare, the economy, the horrible disorganization of DC public schools and
a host of other ills that plague the nation’s capital. The council realizes that if a vote
on same-sex marriage will not fly in Maine with its predominately white, liberal residents,
there is no chance for it to prosper in the District of Columbia where 56% of its citizens
In the near term, gay activists have already started attacking President Obama because he
did not come to their aid in Maine. This is an unwise move because of the president’s
openness to the civil rights claims of gays. Further, it was their strategy that failed in
Maine and no one else is to blame.
The pro traditional marriage groups in DC are encouraged by the grassroots efforts which
have led to reversing a bad law that was passed by an out-of-control group of legislators.
They will undoubtedly attempt to increase voter registration in the District, recalling
willful council members, and electing new political leaders. Pro marriage groups in DC,
under the banner of Stand4MarriageDC.com, have already built one the strongest, most
diverse religious coalitions in the city’s history. Last summer a large number of secular
and community leaders also awakened to the call to stop the advance of same-sex marriage.
It may take a year or so, but there will be a vote to recognize only marriages between a man
and a woman in Washington, DC. When that vote occurs the people will reject same-sex
marriage - once and for all.