Gay marriage a minefield for candidates for California governor
Posted on May 31, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
From the start of his run for governor, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has tried to show there is more to his career than the gesture that won him worldwide fame: his 2004 decree legalizing same-sex marriage.
Yet there he was Tuesday on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” speaking out for gay rights after the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban that Californians passed in November.
For Newsom and five major-party rivals, the resurgence of the same-sex marriage issue has added a new complication to the race for governor.
If gay rights groups get their way, the nominees to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will share the November 2010 ballot with a measure to repeal Proposition 8, turning an emotionally charged cultural issue into a central focus of the campaign.
Across the nation, the subject has grown more challenging for candidates of all kinds as the mere concept has given way to the reality of tens of thousands of married gay couples. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and Iowa have legalized same-sex marriage.
Voters have also shifted their views. In April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 49% of Americans said gay marriage should be legal, and 46% said it should be illegal. Three years earlier, 36% had said it should be legal, and 58% had said it should not.
“The trajectory of public opinion on this issue has been dramatic,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.
In California, where Newsom’s rebel edict in 2004 touched off the court battles that spawned some 18,000 marriages that were declared valid Tuesday, candidates for governor face multiple dangers on the issue. Although support for gay marriage has risen over the last decade — the 52% yes vote on Proposition 8 was down from 61% on a similar measure in 2000 — the issue still sharply divides Californians.
“People care about this one — a lot — on both sides,” said Steve Smith, a Democratic strategist who worked on the campaign to defeat Proposition 8.
A Field Poll taken three months ago affirmed stark generational and ideological splits on same-sex marriage.
Younger voters were far more likely to approve of it than older voters. And Democrats overwhelmingly favored it, while Republicans were strongly opposed.
In that environment, candidates for governor are juggling wildly different needs for the primaries and the general election. See Gay marriage a minefield for candidates for California governor Los Angeles Times * Tags = gay men gay news lesbian news transgender bisexual
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