In New Jersey, Kean lost to Menendez, and by a larger margin than he was trailing in the polls when the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision was made. By itself, that might have sent a signal to the New Jersey state legislature that the public was comfortable with same-sex marriage. Yet polling since the New Jersey decision shows that this is clearly not the case.
Public support for same-sex marriage is, if anything, down in New Jersey. So again, we’ve seen a relative detachment between public sentiment on the marriage issue and votes for congressional candidates, in a year when other issues pushed the trend against the Republicans.
In short, the lesson is that the marriage issue, by itself, isn’t enough to turn around a national election in a year when big controversies like the war dominate. Yet it does seem that marriage amendments boost turnout. In a year when big winds aren’t blowing against Republicans, that would likely still make a significant difference. We also need to remember that Massachusetts imposed full-scale same-sex marriage, while New Jersey’s court went for civil unions. Had New Jersey gone all the way, the political effect would no doubt have been significantly greater.
— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.