“#VirginiaIsForLovers”, tweeted Senator Mark Warner (D-VA.) in response to the U.S. Supreme Court announcement that it will not hear any of the seven cases brought before the highest court in the land regarding same-sex marriage. While some on the left rejoice that the court’s avoiding this decision is a victory within itself, those facing hotly contested political races may disagree. As many campaigns in the past decade focused on gay marriage as a talking point, Republican 2014 midterm candidates shied away from speaking on this issue, choosing to focus on other platforms. Is it problematic that the courts are not able to give a concrete answer, or is it better for this policy question to play out in the political sphere?
While some argue that same-sex marriage belongs in the private sphere, it will continue to be an issue politicians will take note of and campaign around until it is a law. Consequently, this policy may overshadow other issues and not give a fair shakedown to other problems plaguing a state. For instance, cases brought before the court involved Indiana, Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. All of these states have issues that need to be addressed, and with this ruling, or lack thereof, gay marriage policy moves back into the forefront of the conversation and campaign focus.
The map below shows states that do and do not allow gay marriage and further breaks down this ruling by the average gay population. Notably, four of the five states in question have a below average gay population but allow gay marriage. As the fight progresses, either in the lower courts or in politics, these states are expected to receive an above average gay population. Naturally, gay American’s would like to live in states that are friendlier to their lifestyle. As more gay American’s move into those states, we can expect to see a larger push for legalized marriage.
Looking to Indiana, neither candidate in CD3, Stutzman or Kuhnle, lists “same sex marriage” or “equality” as an issue on their campaign site. Instead, common topics include education, how to build a stronger economy and more jobs, healthcare and national security. This can be attributed to a ruling made just last month which stated that banning same sex marriage in Indiana threatens “the welfare of American children.” This ruling, regardless of whether or not you agree, settled the debate within the political sphere and allowed candidates to focus on other pressing issues within Indiana. Problematically, voters may decide to vote for a candidate based solely on their stance of same-sex marriage. While this is true for all policy issues, pinpointing a vote down to a single stance on a social issue may not elect the best candidate to handle all issues of a state.
While some interpret the U.S. Supreme Court’s lack of ruling to be a ruling, at the end of the day, it continues the conversation on marriage and equality. Leaving this decision unresolved, the debate over this policy will continue to monopolize political campaigns and voter’s decisions.