Three years ago, on the same day, voters in Maine approved a citizens’ veto of a state law recognizing same-sex marriage and voters in Washington State rejected an initiative to overturn its law recognizing same-sex domestic partnerships. That is, one state rejected same-sex marriage; another approved same-sex civil unions.
I wondered at the time if a consensus were emerging in the country, favoring state recognition of same-sex unions, but not calling them “marriages.” In four states tomorrow, Maine, yet again, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State, voters will have a chance to weigh in on state recognition of gay marriage, with the Old Line State most likely to be the first state to reject an initiative barring state recognition of same-sex marriage.
It does seem that residents of coastal states are inching closer to favoring state recognition of gay marriage, with Americans in the middle of the country, increasingly open to civll unions, even in the most conservative of states. A recent poll found that while “72 percent of Utah voters oppose gay marriage . . , 71 percent now favor some form of legal recognition, compared to 62 percent nationally“. More voters in Mormon Utah favoring civil unions than in the nation at large?!?
Despite this emerging consensus for civil unions, Congress has failed to bring up any legislation to recognize such relationships. The failure, I believe, stems from the sad fact that each party fears offending one of its key interest groups. If Democrats were to push for civll unions, they would offend gay groups beholden to “marriage equality.” If Republicans were to do the same, they’d upset social conservatives who oppose any federal (or state for that matter) recognition of same-sex unions.
And therein lies the real problem. There is an emerging consensus in favor of same-sex civil unions. But, neither party seems to have the courage to stand up to its base and forge a compromise.
Perhaps, as in Rhode Island, there are individuals who can step up and break the logjam.