Maggie Gallagher

This week I'm speaking at a National Press Club event sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association about the coming vote on state marriage amendments.

Here's a sneak preview:

On Nov. 7, eight states will vote on state marriage amendments that define marriage as the union of husband and wife, and also confine the legal benefits of marriage to married couples (i.e., no government-created civil unions). Twenty states have already passed such amendments, with around 60 percent to 80 percent voter approval.

This time around, gay rights groups have grown excited about the prospect of knocking down one or more of these amendments. Three states in particular are in play: Wisconsin, Arizona and South Dakota, each of which has had polls in recent months suggesting the state marriage amendment may be in trouble. (Amendments in Tennessee, Idaho and South Carolina will likely pass by wide margins. In Virginia, 53 percent of likely voters tell pollsters they approve of the state marriage amendment, despite a vigorous campaign for its defeat. In Colorado, gay groups have focused less on opposing the state marriage amendment than on passing a ballot initiative creating civil unions for gay couples.)

For example, two polls in Arizona showed voters opposed to the state marriage amendment, and a South Dakota poll showed voters defeating the amendment by 49 percent to 41 percent. (Other polls in each state suggest wildly different results). Defeating a marriage amendment in either or both of two such red states would be an amazing landmark victory for gay groups.

What do we make of the political situation? Let me begin with the bad news for gay marriage advocates: I predict all eight state marriage amendments will pass.

Nonetheless, the margin of victory in the states that gay marriage advocates have chosen to contest will be narrower than in the past. The good news from their perspective (and expect to hear it trumpeted loudly) is that gay marriage advocates have hit upon a political formula that influences voters at least somewhat.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.