GAY MARRIAGE….The New York Times has a headline up right now that says this:

Strong Support Is Found for Ban on Gay Marriage

After reading through a bunch of gobbledygook the story finally tells us the basic numbers: 55% are in favor of a constitutional amendment, 40% are opposed.

I’m not sure this is really such strong support, though, especially when it comes to a constitutional amendment. It’s worth remembering that the Equal Rights Amendment also had public majorities in favor and passed both the House and Senate by margins of over 90%. Based on this, my guess is that a constitutional ban on gay marriage doesn’t have much of a chance.

But I’m not sure that really matters anyway. What everyone really seems to care about is not so much whether a gay marriage amendment can actually pass, but whether it will be a good political issue for Republicans in 2004. Sadly, I think it will be. Karl Rove has made it clear that he thinks it’s critical to get a big turnout among the conservative Christian base, and this issue is tailor made for that. I suspect that Bush will come out in favor of the amendment, but do it in a “more in sorrow than in anger” kind of way that doesn’t hurt him much with swing voters.

Democrats, meanwhile, will once again be forced into a more complicated position: in favor of civil unions but not in favor of gay marriage. Hard to make a bumper sticker out of that. And what’s worse ? and surprising to me ? is that the New York Times poll found almost exactly the same opposition to civil unions as to gay marriage.

Fasten your seatbelts. Stormy weather ahead.