By Tim Montgomerie
Some political observers said that the issue of gay marriage was important in re-electing George W Bush in 2004. Certainly, moral issues were high on voters' list of priorities in that year and referenda outlawing same-sex marriage in swing states, including Ohio, was important in getting out the vote of social and religious conservatives.
When late last week a US judge overturned the votes of Californians and said gay couples could marry, it was interesting that the Republican reaction was muted. Is this because, six years later, the culture has shifted in a more permissive direction on this issue? Yes. Is it also because cultural (like green) issues are less important in the middle of an economic downturn? Even more, yes.
One Republican commentator told ConservativeHome that if the GOP didn't have the deficit and the 'jobless recovery' as issues it would run with an issue like gay marriage and judicial activism but 'you don't play a half good hand when you have an excellent hand already'. NBC's Political Unit argued that Barack Obama would dearly love the Republicans to get 'distracted' by the gay rights issue:
"While gay marriage has been a base motivator for Republicans, it doesn't seem like the GOP base needs help motivating this year. As for swing voters, in elections where the economy is issue No. 1, social issues tend to take a back seat. In fact, the White House would probably love nothing more for the fall to be a debate over gay marriage and the 14th Amendment. Do GOPers take the bait."
In overturning the views of 52% of Californians, expressed only two years ago in a ballot entitled Proposition 8, US District Judge Vaughn Walker issued a 136 page report which, reported Bloomberg, concluded "there was no credible evidence that society, the institution of marriage, children or anyone else would be harmed if gay people marry, he ruled... In fact, all evidence pointed to the benefits of letting people marry those they love and giving their children a more stable, legitimized family life."