View From the Hill

Some Vermont legislators who voted to legalize same-sex marriage may fear losing their seats, but Massachusetts and New York voters have reelected nearly every pol who's voted for marriage equality in those states.

BY Kerry Eleveld

April 10 2009 12:00 AM ET

Looking out from my
D.C. perch, the majority of the action was in the
states this week, with Vermont legalizing same-sex marriage and
New York governor David Paterson vowing to introduce a
marriage bill in the Empire State.

First, let's keep in
mind a couple points of interest coming up in just a few weeks.
The Maine legislature will host a much-anticipated public
hearing on both marriage and civil union bills on April 24
(UPDATE: this date has moved forward to April 22nd
at the Augusta Civic Center). Also, in New Hampshire,
where a marriage-equality bill has already cleared the house
(narrowly), all eyes are on a special election for a state
senate seat scheduled on April 21 between Democrat Bud Martin
and anti-marriage equality Republican Jeb Bradley.
It's a close race and politicos are apparently using it to
gauge the temperature of the electorate to some extent.

In Vermont, the next
big question really comes in 2010, when constituents
will weigh in on the performance of their
legislators. "I probably sealed my fate," Robert South, a
freshman Democrat from a conservative district, told
The New York Times,

referring to his vote for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Vermont will most
certainly be an interesting test case, not only because it is
the first legislature to successfully enact marriage without
being ordered to do so by a court, but also because Vermont
voters have been getting used to the idea of gay ceremonies
since 2000, when the state legalized civil unions. Following
that vote, 17 legislators famously lost their seats in the
"Take Back Vermont" campaign, a history probably not lost
on Representative South.

But since that time,
LGBT activists and organizations have had a pretty
stellar score card on getting pro-marriage equality legislators
reelected. Ever since Massachusetts' 2003 court ruling
legalized same-sex marriage, opponents of
equality have mounted three successive campaigns to
constitutionally limit marriage to heterosexual couples -- all
of which have failed. Following the first two pushes,
a total of 195 elections took place for pro-equality
legislators in 2004 and 2006 and not a single one of
them lost their seat. After the third push, just two
pro-equality legislators were voted out in
2008 -- both during Democratic primaries. Today, 159
of Massachusetts's 200 legislators have gone on record
for marriage equality.

In New York, where the
state assembly passed the nation's very first bipartisan
marriage bill (California's 2005 and 2007 marriage-equality
bills -- both vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger -- never
garnered a single GOP vote), the four Republicans who
joined with Democrats to approve the measure in
2007 all won reelection in '08. In fact, two of
those four -- Teresa Sayward and Dede Scozzafava -- represent
conservative upstate districts and yet they ran unopposed.

Maggie Gallagher,
president of the antigay National Organization for Marriage
(yes, of
ominous storm clouds ad fame

), said on NPR this week that she believed Vermont voters would
be upset that legislators took time to have a marriage
vote/debate. We shall see. I think legislators are more likely
to be judged by their entire portfolio of accomplishments. If
they have produced in the areas of education, infrastructure,
and public health, they are likely to be
reelected.

Tags: Politics

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