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Increase likely in anti-gay, anti-abortion state laws | Hunter of Justice

Increase likely in anti-gay, anti-abortion state laws

by on November 21, 2010  •  In Family law, Marriage, Reproductive rights

The overwhelming bulk of law that regulates family formation and recognition, criminal law, health care provision, and parenting is enacted at the state level. As a result, the shift to Republican control of state legislatures is likely to generate a big uptick in conservative lawmaking in those fields. 

Unlike left-right polarization within Congress, which produces gridlock, polarization between the states leads to bigger majorities in each state for one direction or the other. It is the state level where a sharply divided political geography produces the greatest schizophrenia in American law.

After this election, the map for state-level lawmaking has a lot more red and the red is a lot darker, as the following article from the Washington Post describes:

…[The National Organization for Marriage] poured $2.5 million into state races this year, investing in more than 100 state legislative candidates. The group focused particularly on Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Iowa, four states grappling with the same-sex marriage issue. The efforts paid off, with Republicans gaining at least one chamber in each of those states…

Before the midterm elections, Democrats controlled 27 state legislatures outright. Republicans were in charge in 14 states, and eight states were split. (Nebraska, which has a single legislative chamber, is officially nonpartisan). Today, Republicans control 26 state legislatures, Democrats 17, and five have split control. In New York, officials are still determining who is in charge in the state Senate. Republicans control more legislatures than they have since 1952…

"We ran on a strict fiscal message," said state Sen. Amy Koch (R), the Minnesota state Senate majority leader…Even so, though same-sex marriage advocates had until recently thought Minnesota would become one of the next states to allow such unions, Koch said the legislature is now unlikely to take up the issue. "I can't imagine we would look at that," she said. "I just think most people are focused on jobs, economy, the budget and that's what we will focus on."

And in New Hampshire, one of five states and the District that allow same-sex couples to legally wed, social conservatives cheered the results of an election that could pave the way for a repeal of that law. Republicans wrested control of both chambers and now outnumber Democrats 3 to 1 in the 400-member House. Democratic Gov. John Lynch was reelected, but Republicans have a veto-proof majority. Social conservatives plan to push for the gay-marriage ban as well as the reinstatement of a law requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions – but not until lawmakers cut taxes and create jobs as they have promised, said Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, a Christian activist group.

"The social issues were for the most part silent in the election, in that it was really a fiscal message of less spending and less taxes that propelled most Republicans into office," he said. "I expect that to be the focus. That being said, I do think [these] will be two very key social issues that will come up this session."

His group joined with several others to raise about $1.2 million for state-level candidates. Since same-sex marriage was legalized there in January, about 1,000 same-sex couples have wed.

In North Carolina, Christian groups have promised to push for greater restrictions on abortions and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And liberal groups are lining up to protect the Healthy Youth Act, which requires most students in grades 7 through 9 to learn about contraception in addition to abstinence – a requirement conservative groups oppose.

In Wisconsin, Governor-elect Scott Walker (R) has said he opposes the state's expansion earlier this year of a program that provides free birth control to low-income people and youth as young as 15. His agenda will be helped along by the legislature, which will now be controlled by Republicans.

Abortion foes say they expect several states where Republicans made significant gains to consider barring, under the new federal health-care overhaul, some private insurance companies from covering abortions as part of their routine plans. So far, Arizona, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana have passed such legislation.

"Ninety percent of pro-life legislation happens at the state level, so the landscape change that we have now is huge," said Daniel McConchie, vice president of governmental affairs at Americans United for Life, an antiabortion group.

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