posted by Josh Goodman
Gay marriage may soon run out of steam as a political issue in the states, but there's little danger that a ceasefire is imminent in the culture wars. If this year's Arkansas governors' race is any indication, the next big issues may be gay foster parenting and gay adoption.
The reason the marriage issue is running its course is that once states amend their constitutions to define marriage as between a man and a woman, there's not much left to do. Nineteen states already ban gay marriage in their constitutions and at least six more will be voting on the issue this fall.
There's still a few more states where the legislature and/or the voters would be inclined to approve a ban and few others where there will be an active debate over legalizing gay marriage, but overall the issue will be largely, though perhaps temporarily, settled.
In contrast, the vast majority of states currently allow gay foster parenting and gay adoption, but as the Human Rights Campaign's descriptions of adoption laws show, in many cases state policies are murky. That's a recipe for legislation and litigation.
The future is here in Arkansas, where the state Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting gays from serving as foster parents. Ever since, the Republican nominee for governor, Asa Hutchinson, has been hammering his Democratic rival, Mike Beebe, on the topic.
Hutchinson supports a new ban, while Beebe reportedly told a gay rights group prior to the court ruling that he opposed the ban (though he denies that this is what he said). Now Beebe says he supports a new ban too, a position that has led Hutchinson's campaign to accuse him of flip-flopping and has cost him the endorsement of the gay-rights group.
Beebe's stance gives the impression that, like gay marriage, same-sex foster parenting and adoption will play into the hands of Republicans as campaign issues, but that's not necessarily the case. As with many political debates, framing will be key. If voters perceive the choice to be between gay parents and straight parents, social conservatives will probably have the edge. On the other hand, if the choice is seen as being between gay parents and no parents, gay rights advocates may gain the advantage.