by Maggie Gallagher

This article was first published August 23, 2011, at  thepublicdiscourse.com.

Presidential candidates in the next election should uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The mainstream media have labeled marriage the “hottest front in the culture war.” Much to the media’s surprise, several of the GOP candidates have already signed the National Organization of Marriage’s (NOM) Marriage Pledge. They were surprised by major candidates’ willingness to sign NOM’s pledge because this was supposed to be the year the social issues did not matter.

Presidential candidates for the 2012 election need to know that marriage is not only an essential issue in this race; it is a winning issue.

Elites have sounded the death knell on the marriage debate again and again, but popular support for traditional marriage refuses to die. Americans at the ballot box have repeatedly shocked elite opinion by demonstrating that even in deeply blue states a majority of Americans continues to oppose same-sex marriage.

This May, a poll commissioned by Public Opinions Strategies for the Alliance Defense Fund found that 62 percent of those surveyed agreed with this statement: “I believe marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.” Fifty-three percent strongly agreed, while just 35 percent disagreed.

Yet recent polling also reflects that Americans in the mushy middle are no longer hearing much about the opposition to same-sex marriage. Their willingness to express support for a traditional understanding of marriage is starting to shift, depending on how the question is posed to them and what other questions surround the polling question.

This shift means something: when the issue is framed as one of fairness or equality, Americans are now reluctant to disagree with gay marriage, but when it is framed as a moral or family issue, they continue to adhere strongly to traditional norms of marriage.

As Ken Blackwell recently put it, marriage is not a wedge issue but a bridge issue, creating strange bedfellow coalitions never before seen in American politics across lines of race, creed, and color.

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