Today’s Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage in every state has an unexpected side effect. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (the LGBT community), heretofore distracted by wedge issues dealing specifically with their sexual orientation, are now freed from their single-issue devotion to the Democratic Party. Issues that matter to the rest of the electorate are now more relevant to LGBT voters. Many will conclude that Republicans now represent a better choice.
Over the past several elections, Democrats drew LGBT voters into their smokescreen of identity politics by playing on their fears of repression by Republican-led governments. Maybe those fears were justified, or maybe not. But as of today, it doesn’t really matter, because the reason for those fears is gone. Any kind of discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation, including their right to marry each other, is now illegal. Done. As passe as anyone having to sit in the back of the bus. People who oppose gay rights, whether a conservative Republican or a religious African American, can no longer hurt them. The Democrats’ single issue has evaporated.
Now other issues, which have long determined the votes of non-LGBT voters, can and will be considered by LGBT voters without being overcome by suddenly irrelevant identity politics. In addition to LGBT voters (about 4% of the electorate), many other voters under age 40 (Millennials and the youngest of Generation X) have been sympathetic to their cause and voted accordingly. LGBT voters and their young sympathizers may now be up for grabs. On some of these issues, the remaining relevance of sexual orientation actually tilts in favor of Republicans.
Take, for example, national security. Long a strong suit of the Republican Party, this issue is currently of prime importance. The inept efforts and lackadaisical attitude of the Obama Administration in general and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in particular, towards the rapidly growing threat of Islamist extremists have the nation feeling less secure. These policies and attitudes permeate the Democratic Party. Every Republican presidential candidate (with the possible exception of libertarian-minded Sen. Rand Paul) offers the nation greater security than Clinton or any of her intra-party challengers. The LGBT community is keenly aware that the Islamic extremists who threaten us don’t merely discriminate against gays, they execute them!
On the domestic side, tax policy is a key battleground. By and large, the LGBT community enjoys higher incomes and wealth than the nation as a whole. LGBT voters may come to resent Democrat tax policies singling out higher incomes as the source of their “revenue enhancements.” Also, as same-sex couples act on their opportunity to marry, they will see the fundamental unfairness in the tax code’s “marriage penalty.” Republicans have long tried to end it, while Democrats have labored to preserve it.
Younger voters may now pay more attention to the economy. They are the ones most affected by job competition from illegal immigrants, by being forced to settle for part-time employment without health insurance, by being forced to buy health insurance they neither want nor need, or by having insurance from work but no real health care because of high deductibles they can’t afford.
In addition, married voters tend to vote more Republican while single voters tend to vote more Democratic. Married voters with minor children are especially more Republican. As gays and lesbians marry and add adopted children to their families, they will find themselves subject to the same financial and social concerns that influence current married couples to support conservative Republican candidates and policies.
Here in St. Louis, the Supreme Court’s decision coincides with the first day of Pride Fest, the annual LGBT celebration. With fortuitous timing, the only political party organization to have a booth on the fairgrounds is the Republican City Central Committee. Perhaps these new developments will enhance the party’s outreach.