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The Wedge Fizzles

According to this story in the Washington Post, the outcry against gay marriage has been muted, failing to energize the grassroots despite the best efforts of conservative religious leaders. Tom Schaller at Daily Kos is optimistic, reading it as a sign that measures like the Federal Marriage Amendment are far-right schemes that won't resonate with an increasingly gay-friendly country. The evangelical leaders quoted in the story seem to make the same assessment of the facts, though of course they're not happy with the situation.

But I think a more pessimistic interpretation may be in order. It's not that Americans are gay-friendly and thus can't get worked up about the threat of same-sex marriage. It's that they figure that traditional marriage is nice and secure -- two out of every three Americans oppose marriage equality -- and therefore doesn't need much energy put into defending it. It's hard to fault them for that attitude when you have things like this going on:

Democratic campaign consultant Bob Doyle said that, like [Stephanie] Herseth, most of the Democratic candidates in this year's tight congressional races in the South and Midwest "have taken this issue off the table" by supporting a constitutional amendment. In the presidential race, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic challenger, has said that he opposes gay marriage but does not favor a constitutional amendment.

Same-sex marriage can't be a wedge issue that energizes the base if there isn't a candidate taking the "pro" side. Bush and Kerry's positions aren't identical, but it's hard to get people whipped up over a procedural matter of federalism and Constitutional integrity.


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