Most Americans Support Supreme Court Decision, Expansion Of Same-Sex Marriage
The Supreme Court's expansion of same-sex marriage seems to be sitting well with the American public.
A new poll says that a majority of Americans support the Supreme Court’s decision to decline review of the same-sex marriage cases that had been before it, and the expansion of same-sex marriage rights across the nation that resulted from it:
Most Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll support the recent U.S. Supreme Court action allowing gay marriages to go forward in several states – including a bare majority in the 11 states in which such marriages have begun in the past week and a half.
Overall, 56 percent of Americans support the court’s action, while 38 percent oppose it – exactly matching opinions on whether or not gay marriage should be legal, asked in an ABC/Post poll in June. These results reflect the public’s dramatic shift in support of gay marriage the past decade.
By declining to hear several appeals, the high court cleared the way for gay marriage in five states – Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Three others in the same jurisdictions followed suit (Colorado, North Carolina and West Virginia), and gay marriage bans in three additional states, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska, were rejected by other courts in the past week.
In the 19 states (and Washington, D.C.) that had previously legalized gay marriage, the court’s decision is especially popular: Sixty-six percent support the decision, with 30 percent opposed. Support is sharply lower, but still 51 percent, in the 11 states that have allowed gay marriage since the Supreme Court’s action, vs. 42 percent opposed. (The rest are undecided.)
Americans divide similarly, by 48-44 percent, support-oppose, on the court’s action in the 20 remaining states in which gay marriage remains illegal.
Actually, after yesterday’s actions in Arizona, Alaska, and Wyoming, there are now 18 states where same-sex marriage remains illegal, and that number will be down to 15 once legal matters are completed in Montana, Kansas, and South Carolina. In any case, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that there remains a sharp ideological and partisan divide on the issue:
At the same time, the issue remains divisive. This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that seven in 10 strong conservatives, nearly two-thirds of Republicans and 72 percent of evangelical white Protestants oppose the court action.
Sentiment on both sides, moreover, is intense – seven in 10 Americans have strong feelings on the subject, including 38 percent who “strongly” support the court action and 32 percent who strongly oppose it. Only 18 and 6 percent “somewhat” support or oppose the action, respectively.
GROUPS – Support includes more than seven in 10 college graduates and adults under 40, and more than six in 10 Catholics and non-evangelical Protestants alike, falling sharply among their counterparts.
Eight in 10 liberals are in favor, as are six in 10 moderates, vs. just a third of conservatives. And support ranges from 72 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents to 25 percent of Republicans. Indeed, in a separate question, 49 percent of independents say their opinion of gay marriage is closer to the Democratic Party’s; just 23 percent say they’re closer to the GOP on the issue. Largely as a result, Americans overall are 17 points more likely to side with the Democratic Party over the GOP on the issue of gay marriage, 48 vs. 31 percent.
At some point, one thinks we’re going to see the numbers for Republicans change. There will continue, no doubt, to be a subset of conservatives who will remain opposed to same-sex marriage for religious reasons but, once full marriage equality is the law of the land I suspect we will see many Republicans back away from the issue and support the status quo. We have already seen Governors such as Scott Walker, Mike Pence, and Gary Herbert move in that direction after the Supreme Court made marriage equality an inevitability in their states. We’ve also seen that, outside of social conservatives such as Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, the Republican response to this month’s actions on the marriage equality front has basically been deafening silence. While that reaction is likely to annoy the social conservatives, as Huckabee’s empty threat to leave the GOP demonstrates, for the most part the polling is making it clear that the GOP’s position on this issue is going to hurt it it far more that it is going to help it. This will become especially true, I would suggest, as we head closer to the day when same-sex marriage is legally recognized in the rest of the United States. I wouldn’t expect the GOP to become pro-same sex marriage per se, and the party is still likely to oppose measures such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and argue in favor of religious exemptions from discrimination laws for people who don’t want to do business with same-sex couple, at least in the short term. For the most part, however, we are already seeing the GOP beat a hasty retreat on this issue and that is only going to continue as the final legal and political battles on this issue are fought out to their inevitable conclusion.
This poll is also significant because it shows that the Supreme Court is moving in line with public opinion, and may even be trailing it to some extent. This addresses a concern that Justice Ginsburg had made public several months ago about the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade as well as her remarks about same-sex marriage itself, namely the concern that the Court may be stepping out ahead of public opinion on an issue such as this. While public opinion certainly isn’t relevant from a legal point of view, the Justices are obviously aware of it and Chief Justice Roberts in particular seems to be highly concerned with preserving the Court’s public image, in part by ensuring that it doesn’t go too far out on a limb when it comes to controversial social issues, Many Court observers have suggested that this is one explanation for why the Court disposed of the same-sex marriage cases the way that it did. The Justices are aware that public opinion has shifted on this issue decisively, the argument goes. Rather than stepping in immediately, though, and issuing a ruling for all time that covers the entire country, they are content to let things stand where they are for now. The fact that this means handing a huge victory to the advocates of marriage equality, then that’s what it means. For now, though, the Court seems content to let the issue play out in the remains Circuit Courts that have not weighed in, although they no doubt recognize that their actions this month mean that they will be obligated to step in if any of them end up upholding a ban on same-sex marriage. This poll, and others that are likely to follow, shows them that their concerns about being ahead of public opinion are largely unfounded, and that the nation will likely adapt well to a ruling that recognizes a right to marriage that applies to same-sex couples.