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Marriage Equality Opponents Risk Hurting Republicans

February 25, 2011 3:31 pm ET by Tom Allison

Conservative anti-marriage equality advocates plan on ratcheting up the pressure on Republican lawmakers to fight marriage equality, including making the fight against same-sex marriage a keystone issue in the 2012 Presidential election. And it could end up costing Republicans dearly.

The Associated Press reports today that the Alliance Defense Fund, the Family Research Council, the National Organization of Marriage and others were obviously peeved at the Obama administration's decision to longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and don't plan on giving up on the issue any time soon. Alliance Defense Fund's staff Counsel Jim Campbell said that "The ripple effect nationwide will be to galvanize supporters of marriage." Family Research Council's Tony Perkins went so far as to comment that "It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the president's neglect of duty." The AP article concluded: "Conservatives also said they would now expect the eventual 2012 GOP presidential nominee to highlight the marriage debate as part of a challenge to Obama, putting the issue on equal footing with the economy."

But at the same time, the New York Times ran the following headline this morning: "Gay Marriage Seems to Wane as Conservative Issue." The article noted the deafening silence from Republican heavyweights and potential presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, and the relatively tame response from Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour in reaction to the DOMA news this week. GOP strategist Mark McKinnon, part of the team that rallied the Christian conservative base for Bush's re-election in the 2004 campaign, commented: "The wedge issue has lost its edge." Another Republican strategist, John Feehery, had a similar take, noting: "I don't think this is the issue that it once was."

Perennial joke Alan Keyes notwithstanding, it seems that Republicans can see the writing on the wall that the electorate has moved on from the homophobia that gripped the nation two decades ago, and have opted not to stand in progress' way anymore.

We know that Republicans have long relied on the mobilization of Christian conservatives to bolster their electoral campaigns, but with the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," polling indicating a steady shift towards support of marriage equality, more and more states legalizing same-sex marriage, and now the almost two-decade old DOMA legislation crumbling before our eyes, it looks as if Christian conservative organizations will either be disenfranchised from their Republican allies, or Republican representatives will disenfranchise an electorate that seems less and less interested in discriminating against gay and lesbian Americans.

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