Iowa Gay Marriage Ruling Has Big Political Implications, Especially for 2012

Mike Huckabee is smiling. So are GOP fundraisers and rabble-rousers.

By + More

By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Today's Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage in the Hawkeye State has social implications that will be discussed extensively elsewhere (I will be interested to see what my colleague Dan Gilgoff turns up on his God & Country blog).

But the decision will have a political effect that figures to be both immediate and enduring: After all, Iowa may be the third state in the union to allow gay marriage, but it figures to be the first state of the union to hold a 2012 Republican presidential nominee selection contest.

The GOP has long since polished the gay marriage issue to a divisive shine. This decision will do nothing to diminish Republicans' demagogic love for it. In the immediate term, there are three reasons this issue will figure politically: First, the Republicans need to change the subject—the economy is not a winning issue for them, as they advocate cutting spending as the way to pull the country out of a recession and cutting taxes as the solution to spiraling deficits (which they, you know, created); second, the GOP has been distilled to its very conservative core, a group for which gay marriage is an issue of genuine import (this may be an assault upon our culture, but it will surely be a boon for GOP fundraisers); and finally, same-sex marriage is a, ahem, sexy topic and the 24-hour news networks, talk radio hosts, and the blogging class (NRO: "The lawless judicial attack on traditional marriage and on representative government continues.") are likely to cooperate in making it a front-and-center issue.

In the longer term, the conservative grassroots types who show up for Iowa's quadrennial presidential selection contest are almost certain to view this as a huge issue. We can shortly expect statements of outrage about overreaching judicial activists attacking the pillars of our culture from the likes of Mitt "I was for gay marriage before I was against it" Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the '12 primary field. As Ben Smith points out, Mike Huckabee is undoubtedly smiling right now.

Anyone want to place bets on which of the 2012 contenders first gets this ruling into a fundraising appeal?

On Facebook? You can keep up with Thomas Jefferson Street blog postings through Facebook's Networked Blogs.

  • Read more by Robert Schlesinger.
  • Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
  • Read more about gay rights.