A few years back, when lawmakers in states such as Vermont and Massachusetts approved gay marriage, the political chatter was always focused on whether a vote supporting marriage equality would kill a legislative career due to a backlash against those who approved gay unions.
Those who supported gay marriage in legislatures were rarely ousted from office for their votes.
Now, fast forward to 2013. As public opinion has shifted so rapidly on this issue it may be the time to ask: What are the repercussions in Rhode Island for a vote against marriage equality in the General Assembly?
It is a topic that ought to be under discussion in the Rhode Island State Senate as individual senators who may be on the fence survey the vote. The way public and political opinion has evolved, being on the wrong side of history on this issue may cause considerable electoral headaches.
That’s because supporters of same sex marriage are energized and ready and willing to take to the grass roots to work against individual lawmakers who oppose marriage equality. And even if the combination of elements of organized labor, same sex marriage activists and Democratic progressives aren’t enough to bring down an incumbent who opposes marriage equality, it certainly is enough to make life miserable for the good old boys and girls at the State House.
There is one thing no incumbent on Smith Hill is fond of and that is serious primary challenge. Even if you survive, your life is miserable for most of the summer and into mid-September. Ask Sens. McCaffrey of Warwick and DaPonte of East Providence, two stalwarts of Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s leadership team, how much fun it is to run in Democratic primaries, even if you eventually win. Better, ask such former DINO conservative Democrats representatives, such as Jon Brien of Woonsocket, Al Gemma of Warwick or Doug Gablinske of Bristol, how much they liked battling the party’s progressive, pro-gay marriage activists in primaries and getting beaten decisively.
Rhode Island is the last state in New England without legal recognition of gay marriage. The RI House has overwhelmingly approved marriage equality, but the RI Senate has yet to vote on it.
The Washington Post reports today that support for gay marriage nationally has soared to a new high in the Post-ABC News poll as American voters increasingly view homosexuality as more inherited trait than personal choice.
The poll shows that 58 percent of U.S. citizens now believe it ought to be legal for gay men and lesbians to get married while 36 percent say it ought to be illegal. This survey was done between March 7 to 10th among a national survey of 1,001 adults. It carries an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Among younger Americans, gay marriage appears a n-brainer: The poll showed that in the age 18 to 29 bracket, 81 percent support same sex unions. Those aged 65 years old and up remain opposed, on balance: 44 percent said they want marriage equality but 50 percent say it ought to be illegal.
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