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Majority Supports Constitutional Right To Same-Sex Marriage

Same Sex Marriage Supreme Court

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that a majority of Americans now agree with the proposition that the Constitution protects the rights of gays and lesbians to marry:

This, from a new Washington Post poll, is a milestone for gay civil rights:

Regardless of your own preference on the issue, do you think that the part of the U.S. Constitution providing Americans with equal protection under the law does or does not give gays and lesbians the legal right to marry?

Does: 50

Does not: 43

This comes from Greg Sargent, who continues:

This is significant because it goes beyond the question of whether people support legal gay marriage. While we’ve seen a major cultural shift on that question — today’s Post poll finds 56 percent in support — the general idea of legal gay marriage can co-exist with some states keeping it illegal. But now support for a Constitutionally protectedright to gay marriage has hit 50 percent.

In recent months, state laws banning gay marriage have been falling like dominoes, largely because of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. As gay rights advocates point out, SCOTUS’s ruling in United States v. Windsor stopped short of declaring a Constitutional right to gay marriage, but it paved the way for gay marriage bans to be overturned on the grounds that they violate equal protection clause, in places like Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Many advocates expect that one of the many outstanding cases will find its way to the Supreme Court soon enough. SCOTUS is expected to weigh public opinion in making its next decision. Polling like the above suggests rapid evolution in public attitudes on the core Constitutional questions here, which could make a broader ruling more likely.

“This is a highly significant number,” gay rights advocate Richard Socarides tells me. “The Supreme Court came right up to the edge in Windsor, stopping short of declaring a federally protected right to gay marriage, but most people think it is now ready to do so. This poll shows the country is ready for it. This poll and others like it to come will help lay the groundwork for a Supreme Court decision in the next 18 months holding that there is a Constitutional right to marriage equality.”

The poll also shows general acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage at 56%, which is largely consistent with where the numbers have been of late and shows a slow but steady upward tick in social acceptance for something that, just about ten years ago, was opposed by the vast majority of the public.

On some level, of course, the fact that a larger number of Americans accept the idea of a Constitutional right that bars states from forbidding gays and lesbians from marrying doesn’t matter. If a right exists under the Constitution, then it doesn’t matter whether a majority supports it or not, or at least it shouldn’t. Most notably, of course, the Warren-era Court was well ahead of public opinion on racial equality issues starting with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and when the Court handed down its landmark opinion in Loving v. Virginia, public opinion was still very much against the idea of mixed-race marriages. At the same time, though, courts do follow public opinion in at least some respects, and the fact that same-sex marriage has become increasingly socially acceptable has no doubt played a role in the fact that it has had a to-date unbroken string of successes in Federal and state-level courts since the Windsor decision was handed down just under a year ago.

Aaron Blake looks at the political angle of these poll results:

The new poll also asked people how important the issue of gay marriage is to their vote for Congress. While 81 percent of strong gay marriage supporters say it’s at least “somewhat” important, just 50 percent of strong opponents say the same.

Nearly half of those who strongly oppose gay marriage (48 percent) say it’s not even somewhat important to them. Just 19 percent of strong gay marriage supporters are so casual about it.

If you project those numbers over all strong gay marriage supporters and opponents, the advantage for supporters is even clearer.

While 30 percent of Americans say they strongly oppose gay marriage, if only half of them think it’s even somewhat important to their vote, you can deduce that only about 15 percent of Americans feel passionately enough about the issue that it has any impact on their vote.

By contrast, about twice as many Americans — around 30 percent — say they support gay marriage strongly and that it’s at least somewhat important to their vote. Around 20 percent say it’s at least “very” important.

In politics, motivation is hugely important. And gay marriage opponents don’t have it right now.

That’s basically what happens when you are on the losing side of an argument that pretty much everyone seems to realize at this point is over.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that a majority of Americans now agree with the proposition that the Constitution protects the rights of gays and lesbians to marry:

This, from a new Washington Post poll, is a milestone for gay civil rights:

Regardless of your own preference on the issue, do you think that the part of the U.S. Constitution providing Americans with equal protection under the law does or does not give gays and lesbians the legal right to marry?

Does: 50

Does not: 43

This comes from Greg Sargent, who continues:

This is significant because it goes beyond the question of whether people support legal gay marriage. While we’ve seen a major cultural shift on that question — today’s Post poll finds 56 percent in support — the general idea of legal gay marriage can co-exist with some states keeping it illegal. But now support for a Constitutionally protectedright to gay marriage has hit 50 percent.

In recent months, state laws banning gay marriage have been falling like dominoes, largely because of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. As gay rights advocates point out, SCOTUS’s ruling in United States v. Windsor stopped short of declaring a Constitutional right to gay marriage, but it paved the way for gay marriage bans to be overturned on the grounds that they violate equal protection clause, in places like Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Many advocates expect that one of the many outstanding cases will find its way to the Supreme Court soon enough. SCOTUS is expected to weigh public opinion in making its next decision. Polling like the above suggests rapid evolution in public attitudes on the core Constitutional questions here, which could make a broader ruling more likely.

“This is a highly significant number,” gay rights advocate Richard Socarides tells me. “The Supreme Court came right up to the edge in Windsor, stopping short of declaring a federally protected right to gay marriage, but most people think it is now ready to do so. This poll shows the country is ready for it. This poll and others like it to come will help lay the groundwork for a Supreme Court decision in the next 18 months holding that there is a Constitutional right to marriage equality.”

The poll also shows general acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage at 56%, which is largely consistent with where the numbers have been of late and shows a slow but steady upward tick in social acceptance for something that, just about ten years ago, was opposed by the vast majority of the public.

On some level, of course, the fact that a larger number of Americans accept the idea of a Constitutional right that bars states from forbidding gays and lesbians from marrying doesn’t matter. If a right exists under the Constitution, then it doesn’t matter whether a majority supports it or not, or at least it shouldn’t. Most notably, of course, the Warren-era Court was well ahead of public opinion on racial equality issues starting with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and when the Court handed down its landmark opinion in Loving v. Virginia, public opinion was still very much against the idea of mixed-race marriages. At the same time, though, courts do follow public opinion in at least some respects, and the fact that same-sex marriage has become increasingly socially acceptable has no doubt played a role in the fact that it has had a to-date unbroken string of successes in Federal and state-level courts since the Windsor decision was handed down just under a year ago.

Aaron Blake looks at the political angle of these poll results:

The new poll also asked people how important the issue of gay marriage is to their vote for Congress. While 81 percent of strong gay marriage supporters say it’s at least “somewhat” important, just 50 percent of strong opponents say the same.

Nearly half of those who strongly oppose gay marriage (48 percent) say it’s not even somewhat important to them. Just 19 percent of strong gay marriage supporters are so casual about it.

If you project those numbers over all strong gay marriage supporters and opponents, the advantage for supporters is even clearer.

While 30 percent of Americans say they strongly oppose gay marriage, if only half of them think it’s even somewhat important to their vote, you can deduce that only about 15 percent of Americans feel passionately enough about the issue that it has any impact on their vote.

By contrast, about twice as many Americans — around 30 percent — say they support gay marriage strongly and that it’s at least somewhat important to their vote. Around 20 percent say it’s at least “very” important.

In politics, motivation is hugely important. And gay marriage opponents don’t have it right now.

That’s basically what happens when you are on the losing side of an argument that pretty much everyone seems to realize at this point is over.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    There is some good news there, however it is hard to get excited.

    A few decades ago we could not get 38 states to approve of a constitutional amendment for equal rights for women, and, to me, there is no reason to believe now that the constitution could be amended for same-sex marriage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. stonetools says:


    “It’s great that the Democrats and the Obama Administration led on this issue even when it was politically dangerous to do so, and helped turn around public perception of the issue.”

    Truthful statements that Doug will never write.

    More good news:


    This week, a Reagan-appointed federal judge handed the National Organization for Marriage its first major rejection of the month, kicking the anti-gay-marriage group’s IRS lawsuit out of court. NOM, a longtime opponent of disclosure laws, had claimed that the IRS intentionally leaked a contributor list to the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign, using the accusation as a fundraising tool. On Tuesday, however, U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris slammed NOM’s claim, noting the group’s utter lack of evidence and criticizing its case as “unconvincing” and “unpersuasive.”

    This dismissal would be embarrassing enough on its own. Yet 2014 has brought NOM so many defeats that its IRS loss barely made the news. The day after Judge Cacheris’ ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court swatted down NOM’s attempt to halt gay marriage in Oregon, where the attorney general has refused to defend the state’s recently invalidated ban. (Before that, the group tried, and failed, to make a last-minute defense of the law in district court.) These two failures come on the heels of NOM’s most humiliating month yet: In May, the Maine Ethics Commission hit the group with a $50,250 fine for breaking state laws in its 2009 campaign to overturn marriage equality. The commission went on to note that NOM had also likely violated campaign disclosure laws in New Hampshire and Iowa. The Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board is currently investigating the group.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer group.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Javier says:

    50 percent is not the majority. You need over 50.0 percent to have a majority. Majority means most people, not exactly half.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  4. KM says:

    claimed that the IRS intentionally leaked a contributor list to the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign, using the accusation as a fundraising tool.

    I don’t get why they’re outraged over that. It’s almost like they’re ashamed or something that the public knows they were donating to this group……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. JohnMcC says:

    It is noticeable that recent posts have been much more thoroughly proofread. Congratulations and thank you. The obvious double-clicking above is forgiven. (As I carefully check on senatorial terms these days.)

    And returning to the topic…

    The relative popularity of political positions on various issues does little to explain the strength of the opposition to them. Think how many white-supremacists could be found and quoted by thorough newspaper searches. There are not as many as a few decades ago but enough to conclude that the issue is not completely spent.

    In the case of same-sex-marriage, there will be serious opposition from faithful conservative Christians until that group is such a small fragment that we simply cannot hear them and they cannot hire another lawyer or influence another legislator anywhere.

    For these good souls, the reason that mankind is saddled with earthly rulers is so that we all may be led to live lives compatible with God’s plan. The role of Christians in a democracy to to advocate for making the ‘City of Man’ resemble the ‘City of God’ as closely as possible.

    We will thank them when we find ourselves in Heaven.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0