Gay Marriage May Affect the 2008 Election The last time a state Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal, it was Massachusetts in 2003. The fallout helped Republicans boost turnout in 2004 and hold the White House. Times have changed since then, but it remains to be seen how big the issue could be for Republicans in 2008.

Gay Marriage May Affect the 2008 Election

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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

The issue of same-sex marriage got a solid push into the political arena yesterday after California's Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians in that state should have the right to marry. In California, even before the ruling, same-sex marriage opponents had already gathered more than a million signatures in favor of a ballot measure that would overturn the court's decision.

And as NPR's Scott Horsley reports now, the issue could have a wider influence on the November election nationwide.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Four years ago, a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage helped swell the numbers of social conservatives voting in Ohio. They contributed to a narrow victory there for George Bush that secured his second term. Could it happen again? Social conservatives are already calling yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in California a wake-up call.

Ms. MICHELLE HAYDEN(ph) (Member, Concerned Women for America of California): Sometimes it just get people motivated to say, oh my gosh, I did not realize it was, you know, this would happen.

HORSLEY: Michelle Hayden is with Concerned Women for America of California. She's part of a coalition that wants to change the state constitution to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. The last time the issue came up eight years ago, more than 60 percent of California voters cast ballots against same-sex marriage. Poll show a somewhat smaller majority still feels the same way.

Even so, political analyst Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College doesn't think a November ballot measure in California will help John McCain the same way the Ohio measure helped President Bush.

Professor JACK PITNEY (Political Analyst, Claremont McKenna College): Don't expect John McCain to be making lots of speeches about gay marriage. It's just not a John McCain kind of issue.

HORSLEY: Two years ago, McCain supported a ban on same-sex marriage in his home state of Arizona, but he opposed a federal ban, and he's generally more of a live and let live kind of a Republican, in a mold of Barry Goldwater. McCain writes in one of his books about how Goldwater, who had a gay grandson, became a champion of gay rights.

Family ties have had the same effect on other politicians, including the Republican mayor of San Diego, who introduced McCain at a rally here on the day of the California primary.

Jerry Sanders was initially opposed to same-sex marriage. But the mayor, whose daughter is gay, reversed himself during an emotional news conference last September.

Mayor JERRY SANDERS (Republican, San Diego, California): I have close family members and friends who are member of the gay and lesbian community. I couldn't look at them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife Rana.

HORSLEY: One of McCain's key allies in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has charted a middle path on the issue. He twice vetoed laws that would have legalized gay marriage, but he also told a group of gay Republicans last month he would campaign against the constitutional ban.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): First of all, I think that it would never happen in California because I think that California people are much further along in that - with that issue. And, number two, I will always be there to fight against that, because...

(Soundbite of applause)

HORSLEY: Claremont McKenna's Pitney says the biggest political impact of yesterday's California court ruling may be felt elsewhere around the country.

Prof. PITNEY: Here in California, it's probably not going to have that much of an impact. First, religious conservatives aren't nearly as well organized in California as they are elsewhere. The second, the state probably is not going to be in play in the presidential election.

HORSLEY: Florida, however, will be a swing state once again, and another proposed ban on same-sex marriage could be on the ballot there.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, San Diego.

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