Carl Paladino’s anti-gay speech this week has pushed gay rights into an election cycle that has seen little discussion of the issue. According to our Election Oracle, few individual races show gay marriage as occupying more than 3 percent of online discussions of the campaign—and those that generate the most buzz are not the ones you might expect.
According to Election Oracle, the statewide race that has witnessed the most online conversation on gay marriage in recent weeks, for example, is Maine’s gubernatorial contest. There’s been a lot of movement on this front over the last couple of years, as the Maine state legislature and Gov. John Baldacci legalized gay marriage, only to have the decision reversed by a referendum last November. Now the candidates to succeed Baldacci are facing questions on how they plan to handle the aftermath, with Republican Paul LePage supporting a ban on gay marriage and Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler backing gay marriage.
As in Maine, most of the contests near the top of the list are in places that have already passed gay-marriage laws or fought major battles over the issue. None of the top 10 races are in the South, and four of the top seven are in New England, including the second spot, Rhode Island’s governor race. In that race, Republican John Robitaille, who is against gay marriage, is battling two candidates, independent former Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Democrat Frank Caprio, who say they would sign a bill making same-sex unions legal. In New Hampshire, where same-sex marriage was legalized last year, conservative groups are running ads against Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed the marriage law and is up for reelection. Vermont, also on the list, legalized gay marriage through its legislature in 2009 as well.
Most of the contests near the top of the list are in places that have already passed gay-marriage laws or fought major battles over the issue.
Other high-up races are in states that have had a similar history with the issue—Hawaii, where the first court ruling legalizing gay marriage came down in 1993, and Iowa, where a judge ruled gay marriage legal last year. An outlier is Minnesota, where Republican candidate Tom Emmer has drawn protests from gay-rights groups over his opposition to anti-bullying legislation and his support for a referendum banning gay marriage.
Another notable high-ranking race is Delaware’s Senate contest, where Christine O’Donnell’s campaign attracted widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum for allegedly gay-baiting her straight opponent with phony rumors and for her previous work with an “ex-gay” ministry. O’Donnell also referred to gays in 2006 as suffering from an “identity disorder,” comments that have been widely discussed since she burst onto the political scene.
Benjamin Sarlin is the Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast and edits the site's politics blog, Beltway Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.