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Gay Marriage Debate Takes Back Seat to Economy

Bill Clark/Roll Call
With Americans increasingly supporting same-sex marriage, the issue has waned as a political wedge in recent election cycles. Washington, D.C., is one of several governments that allow gay marriage, which is why Jonathan Howard (left) and Gregory Jones could celebrate their wedding at the D.C. Superior Court in March 2010.

In Virginia, even though just five years ago a strong majority of voters supported a state constitutional amendment to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions, a May Washington Post poll shows a plurality, 47 percent, now supports gay marriage.

Forty-three percent are against it. It's a marked shift from 2004, when George W. Bush's Republican Party successfully placed several anti-gay-marriage measures onto battleground state ballots to boost Bush's re-election prospects. That year, Allen was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and advocated frequently that marriage "should be reserved for a man and a woman."

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, charged that gay marriage would no longer "pay the sort of dividends" that Republicans notched in 2004.

"You just seem so horribly out of touch when the message is improve the economy and get people jobs and you're talking about whether the two guys down the street who are struggling like the rest of us are able to get married or not," he said.

Demographic changes have been a factor, as well, because young people overwhelmingly support gay marriage.

Seventy percent of 18- to 34-year-olds supported legal same-sex marriage in the Gallup poll.

"We have a number of indicators on gay and lesbian relations, and young people generally tend to be more liberal in their orientation than those who are older," said Frank Newport, Gallup poll's editor-in-chief.

The College Republican National Committee hasn't taken a stand on any social issues since 2009.

CRNC spokesman Rob Lockwood said the group focuses "solely on economic issues and jobs," in part because the different college chapters have varying views on social issues.

The focus is on "the one issue we are all united on and that is: Excessive government spending has not worked," Lockwood said.

Democratic consultant Steve Elmendorf, who is gay, thinks it's only a matter of time before gays and lesbians can legally marry anywhere.

As for the issue's political future, Elmendorf said: "Whether the Republicans get there, dragged, kicking and screaming, or whether they join the parade, I don't know."

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