Tired as I am of "presidential" politics, I turn to a brighter spot on this year's electoral calendar -- legislative initiatives. And, especially, ones poised to pass by handy margins in Washington, Maryland, and Maine, which would allow gays to marry in those states -- which would collectively represent the first time ever that gay marriage has prevailed in the popular vote in a state. There's some irony to the flow of this year's set of gay marriage efforts. In 2004, many states had ballot measures up for vote to ban gay marriage -- and indeed, this was part of the overall architecture of Karl Rove's reelection strategy for George W. Bush, with those ballot measures pushing angry antigay turnout in a number of hotly contested states.

But this year's measures are more or less counter-programming. They are in states conceded as 'deep blue,' and so which are not really contested at all, so the initiatives neither help nor hinder any national ticket. Okay, I'll let just a bit of presidential politics sneak in here. After the conventions, with Obama riding a big bounce and looking to carry Florida and Virginia (and even knocking on the door in Missouri and Arizona) the conventional wisdom was that Mitt Romney was a lost cause. Conservative donors were poised to abandon his campaign and pour their cash into lower tier candidates and causes -- defeating gay marriage being high on that list. But then the first debate turned things on their head for the presidential election, and suddenly the prospect of Romney actually winning the thing essentially sucked up all the oxygen in the room. Anticipated largess failed to materialize, and now, for the first time in such a contest, gay marriage opponents find themselves outfunded -- and by as much as ten to one. Simply put, though Romney himself has been fervently against gay marriage, his comeback in the election may well have saved gay marriage!! It will be doubly ironic if it turns out Romney has peaked (as some pundits are claiming), and narrowly loses anyway, while dragging down homophobia and weakening his party in various other elections.

Oh, I suppose Obama deserves some credit as well -- if you'd call it 'credit' for seemingly sleepwalking through a presidential debate. But to be fair, gay marriage wouldn't be expected to pass in Maryland anyway, but for Obama's endorsement of allowing it, which fairly directly brought about a sea change in the attitudes of black evangelicals who make up a very large proportion of that state's population (not so much of a factor in Washington, and a trivial element of the Maine electorate). Meanwhile, Libertarian Gary Johnson (and two out of three other major third party candidates) were in favor of gay marriage for years before Obama came around.

And these gay marriage initiatives come fortuitously on the heels of a US federal court decision striking part of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The case is a hard one for Republicans to get around, as it strikes down an imposition of the hated estate tax (often appropriately derided as the 'death tax'), to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars, being assessed against an elderly New York woman whose beloved wife had died. Gay marriage is legal in New York, so had the federal government been permitted to ignore the law of the state and impose its own federal definition of marriage (incidentally, a power given nowhere in the Constitution), then the taxes on this widow's inheritance would be multiplied severalfold. This decision doesn't affect the part of DOMA which permits states to ignore gay marriages performed in other states, though other lawsuits are in play over that provision. But it would be very, very hard for the conservative majority of Supreme Court justices to articulate a rationale by which to ignore states' rights in favor of reading into the Constitution an expansive new federal power to redefine marital law over the traditional exercise of that power by the states, all for the purpose of raising taxes on old ladies. And, with substantial tax benefits to be realized, those three states poised to legalize gay marriage (along with Iowa, now the gay magnet of the midwest) stand to obtain a windfall from that decision.

Ah, but there is one initiative which may indeed affect presidential politics. In highly prized (indeed, potentially decisive) swing state Colorado, proposed 'Amendment 64' is up for vote, which would make it legal for persons over twenty-one to possess, for their own personal purposes, up to one ounce of marijuana. (GhettoAardvark reminds me that "Measure 80 in Oregon will do some similar things as Amendment 64, including state dispensaries and licensing, for non-minors.") The issue is polling well, and there is a notion that pro-legalization voters are more likely to back Obama than Romney (though some fall more squarely in the Gary Johnson camp). On the one hand, Obama has not exactly been a friend of marijuana legalization, with his administration giving mixed signals on how far they would go to enforce the existing prohibition, essentially contending that they won't seek changes in the law, but won't pursue legit medicinal uses either -- but then (as I have noted before), Romney has sworn to "fight tooth and nail" to throw all those pot-smoking cancer-fighting grannies in the slammer. (Personal note: somebody very close and dear to me has a legit medical condition -- not cancer, thankfully -- but one for which they smoke marijuana, which provides them great relief and, essentially, makes their life livable.... so, yeah, fuck you, Mitt Romney).


For Election 2012: An Unofficial Quest Announcement

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