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GOP's gay-rights crack-up

(Salon) — Shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage in November 2003, the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney wrote a piece that gamed out how the ruling was likely to impact the 2004 elections. The decision, he wrote, put national Democrats on the defensive, wary as they were of “the kind of cultural issues that have repeatedly put them at a disadvantage over the last 20 years.” Conservatives, meanwhile, were energized. “Anticipating this very decision,” Nagourney wrote, “key Republican leaders had described gay marriage as the abortion issue of 2004, a certain way of igniting their supporters.”

That analysis proved to be largely accurate. The Democrats took up inconsistent positions on same-sex marriage and generally fumbled with the issue. Eleven states had same-sex marriage bans on the ballot in 2004, and all of them passed. Giddy conservatives saw the trend continuing. “It may well be that contemporary liberalism cannot and will not abandon the quest for same-sex marriage,” a National Review writer argued after the election. “But it is sheer self-delusion to pretend that there will be no electoral price to pay.”