Is There a Political Cost For Voting for Same-Sex Marriage?

Mar 7, 2013

As the wait continues for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up a same-sex marriage bill, supporters and opponents are continuing grassroots campaigns trumpeting their point of view. One of their points of contention is whether there's a political cost for lawmakers  for lawmakers who vote in support of same-sex marriage.

An analysis by Third Way, a pro-same-sex marriage group in Washington, D.C.,  finds that 97 percent of the state lawmakers who voted for same-sex marriage in New York and Washington state won re-election last year. Third Way draws this conclusion: "[I]t is not politically perilous for state legislators to vote in favor of laws allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to marry."

Christopher Plante, the head of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, doesn't put much significance in the findings. The pro-same-sex marriage vote in Washington was too close to the election to have a real impact, he says, and New York lawmakers who made last-minute conversions in their vote were among the electoral losers. "There is certainly political peril and a price to pay," Plante says, for supporting same-sex marriage.

Still, growing public acceptance for same-sex marriage -- placed at 60 percent of Rhode Islanders in a recent Brown poll -- indicates a shifting tide. The same is true of the change in stance of people like House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello; part of the overwhelming majority of state reps who approved a same-sex marriage bill in January, he said he wouldn't have backed the measure just a few years earlier.

Meanwhile, there's no further indication of when the  Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the same-sex marriage bill passed by the House.