We Are All Federalists Now
You may have read that Senator Jeanne Shaheen recently said she thought the issue of gay marriage should be decided in New Hampshire, rather than at the federal level. But she also declined to publicly state her position on the specific legislation currently pending at the State House. It is true that the question was a bit outside the purview of a press conference on her recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is where the question was posed to her. But she had to know she would be asked about it at some point.
On the first issue of whether gay marriage should be decided in the states or at the federal level, this is one area where there seems to be increasing agreement among progressives and conservatives. I recall writing a post back in November 2007 on the issue of federalism and social policy, after hearing Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson comment on Meet the Press that he would much prefer to have issues like gay marriage decided by governors and state legislatures. And, it should be no surprise to now see supporters of gay marriage focus on a receptive audience in New England, in an attempt to turn success in places like Vermont and Maine into a domino cascade of legislative victories in other states.
On the second issue of whether Senator Shaheen should have publicly stated her position on the current legislation, I will say that it has been fascinating to watch the ground shift so rapidly under the feet of Democratic officials, particularly those who have traditionally been considered moderate or centrist. Just as most elected Democratic officials got comfortable with the party’s default position of pro-civil unions, but anti-gay marriage – as did President Obama, Governor Lynch and Senator Shaheen to name just three – it now seems like the party is moving past that position to a fuller embrace of gay marriage.
I’m guessing that many Democratic politicians thought the default pro-civil unions only position would retain its currency for a much longer period of time than it has. So now we may see more of these officials carve out a new position based on a private/public dichotomy, in which they retain their personal opposition to gay marriage, but also acknowledge changing norms in the party (as Gov. Lynch has essentially done). Perhaps this is also where Senator Shaheen’s thinking on the issue is now, but we won’t really know until she tells us.


Posted On: 05-31-2009 09:59:18 by Jim Splaine
The evolution of this issue from Vermont to New Hampshire 2007 to New Hampshire 2009 would make a fascinating study. Hint? Such an analysis might be valuable for Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey, the next states most likely to seriously consider gay marriage. New Hampshire isn't there yet, so the next several days will also be interesting.

Posted On: 06-03-2009 20:01:01 by Jim Splaine
Those next several days WERE interesting!

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