Ruth Marcus: The nonissue of campaign 2012

BY RUTH MARCUS Published: October 31, 2012
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Still, said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, “this is the first time we have seen a major national election in which one party has not overtly attacked LGBT people and opposed their equal rights in order to gain votes and motivate a base.”

The most interesting test involves the marriage initiatives on the ballot in four states (Maine, Maryland and Washington, where voters are being asked to affirmatively support same-sex marriage, and Minnesota, where opponents of marriage equality have an initiative to prohibit it.)

In 32 out of 32 previous ballot initiatives — including an attempt in Maine just three years ago — voters have rejected same-sex marriage. Now that string of intolerance may be broken; polls are tight in all four states.

But the message of those opposing same-sex marriage has shifted — to emphasize tolerance but draw the line at marriage.

A new report from the centrist Democratic group Third Way shows that most of the increase in support for marriage equality does not come from the changing demographics of younger voters who are more open-minded but from older voters reconsidering.

In 2004, 16 percent of Republicans backed same-sex marriage; by 2011, 26 percent did. In 2004, 33 percent of self-described moderates supported marriage equality, by 2011, 54 percent were in favor. And although the Catholic Church is a major financial backer of groups opposing same-sex marriage, support among Catholics has grown from 35 percent to 52 percent.

From ultimate wedge issue to relative nonissue — a stunning transformation.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP