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A ‘Dede Effect’ on Gay Marriage

Maggie Gallagher argues that the Dede Scozzafava debacle in NY-23 could scare New York Republicans out of supporting gay marriage in the state Senate. (New York’s upper house does not offer the minority party the right to filibuster, but the Democratic majority includes conservatives who will vote against gay marriage.) Certainly, State Senate President Malcolm Smith is worried.

But having covered the race pretty closely, I don’t see much evidence that Scozzafava was brought down because of her support for gay marriage. If that had been her only affront to conservative voters, I think she would have survived. The Club for Growth — which Doug Hoffman’s campaign spokesman Rob Ryan credited with putting “gas in the tank” for the campaign — would not likely have spent money against Scozzafava if she were pro-gay marriage but also anti-stimulus and anti-card check. The Susan B. Anthony List, a huge player in the fight against Scozzafava, did not mention gay marriage in its endorsement of Hoffman. And while the National Organization for Marriage funded pro-Hoffman handouts, I didn’t talk to any voters who considered gay marriage an issue.

Could a conservative Republican oust an incumbent in a primary if that incumbent backed gay marriage? Anything’s possible. But the long-term lesson of Maine is not that, once again, anti-gay marriage forces got 53 percent of a state to strip away marriage rights. It’s that they had to do so after the state legislature passed marriage rights and the governor signed them — which meant NOM was in the position of circumventing legislators, not threatening them.

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