HRC Blog

Marriage Equality and the 2012 Republican Primary

The 2012 presidential campaign is getting underway.  President Obama is staffing up his campaign operation in Chicago while Republicans begin the process of figuring out their presidential nominee. All eyes – and the drama – are on how things shake out on the Republican side. The first GOP debate is scheduled for May 7 at the Ronald Reagan Library in California followed by another June 7 in the all-important primary state of New Hampshire.

While we know all but one of the prospective candidates (Fred Karger is the exception) are against marriage equality, it’s not clear at this point to what degree marriage, if at all, will be an issue in these debates and in the overall primary. Voters don’t see marriage equality as an important issue at all in this campaign; their focus is on jobs and the deficit. You don’t need a poll to figure that out.

But here are some. When asked what the most important issue should be for the GOP presidential nominee,  one percent of super-GOP activists in the state of New Hampshire answered “gay marriage” in a January straw poll. “Gay marriage” also came in at 1 percent in the February CPAC poll of hardcore conservatives. And just five percent of voters think it’s among the most important issues in deciding whom to support in the presidential race, according to a March poll done by the Human Rights Campaign in conjunction with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

So has “gay marriage” run its course as a wedge issue in political campaigns?  We’ll see. But anti-LGBT organizations are certainly trying to make it one.

According to the Associated Press, conservatives “expect the eventual 2012 GOP presidential nominee to highlight the marriage debate as part of a challenge to Obama, putting the issue on equal footing with the economy.” Very far-right groups like the National Organization for Marriage have effectively made opposition to marriage equality a litmus test for the Republican nomination and were in Iowa this weekend urging activists to hold candidates “accountable” and to “lead” on the issue of marriage. For more on NOM’s role in the election, check out


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