The adage that this is the best of times and the worst of times is about to take on new meaning in statehouses across the country. Progressive states will have more leeway to enact social justice-oriented policies and states that trend conservative will be able to push state laws farther on the right. That’s because in 37 states – more than two-thirds of the nation – one party will control the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature.
According to the N Y Times, that’s the greatest degree of structural polarization in state government since 1952.Although the article doesn’t go into this detail, I would guess that the share of the total population living in these states must be even greater than two-thirds, since one party control will exist in all or almost all of the 10 largest population states: California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, and probably New York (votes are still being counted).
Among the policy issues that divide the states, none is more sharply partisan than lgbt rights and reproductive rights. On these two issues especially, we can expect that the laws under which individuals live will diverge even more dramatically than they do already, for as long as this polarization trend continues. One result may be that, even as more states allow marriage, conservative states will become increasingly resistant, despite polls showing greater overall popular support. (Those polls also show enormous geographic variation.) In turn, we may see little if any progress in the legal situation of gay couples who marry or secure relationship recognition in a progressive state and then relocate to a state hostile to lgbt rights.