Public opinion on same-sex marriage

Thanks again to Danielle and Dan for inviting me to blog here this month. I didn’t expect, when I started this guest-blogging stint, that same-sex marriage would be a primary focus of my posts–it’s something I care about as a citizen, but not one of my academic research fields. But my posts have been largely driven by events, and it seems clear that April 2009 will be looked back upon as a turning point in this civil rights movement. The month started with major developments in Iowa, Vermont, and DC, and today it ends with what strikes me as even bigger news: the Washington Post and ABC News released what I think is the first nationwide poll showing that more respondents support same-sex marriage than oppose it. The split (49% to 46%) is within the poll’s margin of error, but even so, it represents a pretty dramatic shift–less than three years ago, the same poll split 58% opposed and 36% in favor.

The Post article treats this as being largely a story about demographics, and of course that is part of the explanation: young people are much more likely to support marriage equality than older people. But the composition of the population hasn’t changed fast enough to explain shifts of this magnitude in a few years–it’s also got to be that a lot of people, young and old, have changed their minds. As I suggested in an earlier post, court decisions might have contributed to that change–by direct persuasion, by starting a statewide or nationwide conversation that gets people to question traditions, or simply by allowing gay and lesbian couples to begin to marry (which could shape public opinion as people realize that fears about the effects on marriage as a social institution have not panned out).

In any event, whatever the role of courts in bringing about this cultural shift, now that it’s happening, it suggests that the courts will probably play a less central role in pushing the movement toward marriage equality forward in the future. This is increasingly becoming a battle that marriage equality advocates can win in legislatures and at the ballot box. As the poll numbers shift, we’re likely to see increased support for same-sex marriage from politicians who might have been reluctant to take that stand previously. (I suspect this will eventually include President Obama.) That support may be led by Democrats, but it will cross party lines. Of course, this cultural shift is far from being complete, as California voters demonstrated a few months ago. There are still a substantial number of energetic opponents (like the National Organization for Marriage, which I’ve noticed seems to have dropped its priceless “2M4M” slogan). But the road ahead may not be that long. Check out statistician Nate Silver’s state-by-state projections–a few weeks ago, he predicted that every state will have majority support for marriage equality by 2024. Silver also projected that marriage equality would achieve majority support nationwide by “sometime in the 2010s”–so if the Post/ABC News poll is correct, Silver’s projections may have been on the conservative side.

Increasing public support matters, and not just because it is likely to affect the ultimate state of the law–I suspect that given a choice between achieving marriage equality through the courts and achieving it through the democratic process in the same timeframe, just about every equality advocate would prefer the latter (even if the court decisions couldn’t be overturned by referendum). That’s because the battle over same-sex marriage is ultimately one about social meaning–it’s about the expressive power of the law. Sure, it’s about the various legal benefits attached to marriage too, but if that were all it was about, then both sides of the struggle would treat civil unions as being interchangeable with marriage, and they don’t. The recognition of committed same-sex unions as marriages is a social statement that such unions, and the men and women in them, are worthy of respect rather than stigma. So if the ultimate goal is to foster inclusive social norms, then changing public opinion isn’t just a sign that the movement may achieve its goals–in an important sense, changing public opinion is the central goal. Court decisions, in contrast, can only ever be a step along the way.

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48 Responses

  1. Wendy says:

    Just a quick comment. Whether you’re pro or against gay “marriage”, try seeing it this way…

    No matter what rights gay couples are granted, the majority of us will never take things such as their wedding vows seriously.

    How frustrating that must be, for the couple. So basically I believe that gay couples are still at a disadvantage, no matter how many laws are passed allowing them the same rights as the rest of us.

    This reality should release the conservatives of their angst over changes permitting a gay couple to say “I do”…let’s face it…it’s never going to be the same, or hold the same meaning.

  2. Shane says:

    No Im sorry wendy i dont agree I dont think they should even be together but we can’t do anything about it. but we can stop them from getting maried and i hope we do!!

  3. jessica jordan says:

    same-sex marriage i think is every person’s right. Just because some people think it’s wrong doesn’t mean that it should be the law. They’re not hurting anyone.

  4. Steve says:

    It all comes down to EQUAL RIGHTS … If what the Bible says is true, “God created all men equal” then just let EVERYONE be equal. Others say it’s about the children, wouldn’t you want to see those children that are given up/away the chance at a REAL family, to be loved and cherished for just who they are and not a label that society placed on them without their consent or permission … Aren’t those who support a ban on equal rights labeling those who want their own equal rights as the children up for adoption are “categorized” by society … ??? Those individuals are doing this from fear, they do not fully understand the issue before them and it’s so much easier to cross your arms and shake your head from side to side rather than up and down, open your arms and embrace the information available from both sides in order to make up your OWN mind …

  5. Just wanna share my opinion about same sex-marriage. Same sex-marriage is not legal at all for Christian. God does not not permit homosexual. But for non Christian there is nothing problem with same sex-marriage.

  6. Steph says:

    I think its not fair that they have to be looked down upon because they are gay or lesbian

  7. kerst says:

    Im sorry shane but everyone is entitled to their own rights. Love is Love and thats just the way it is, same sex marrige hurts no one and should NOT be a law, otherwise there should be no marriges at all, because one marries the other on be cause they love each other, does that mean that its not LOVE because its the same sex?? I believe every person has the right to marry who they want, (thats concensual and adult).

  8. Just to add information from sulumits retsambew, in Islam same-sex marriage is not legal. Islam have story about it that happen when the age of Luth prophet.

  9. Babhyface says:

    I Think That Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Legalized Because Some People Dont Like The Oppsite Sex.Also Because You Should Not Interfer With Other Other`s life.

  10. the only people who should not get married are gypsys they creep me out.. they will try to take over the world with gypsy children

    GO GAYS!!!!

  11. i agreeeeee with ANNIE gypsy hater…….. ya ya

  12. leelee says:

    I think all those people that want to refer to the bible and say gays are wrong in Gods eyes need to keep reading because it also says no man shall pass judgement on the other or that one shouldnt lie rape kill. All these things happen everyday yet murders are allowed to wed or rapest. As a homosexual myself i would like to know what wrong im doing by god or man that is any greater than any other persons crime or sin. if i am said to be wrong by god by loving another as god says to love all then so be it and if we follow the laws of man to convict or restrict us from marriage we forget the true reson people wed. Love is what marriage is supposed to be about not rece sex or religion.

  13. John Kuriakose says:

    The question is not whether gay marriage is good or bad. Individuals have the freedom to be or not to be gays, to sin or not to sin. There, they become the masters of their own fate!However,they deserve sympathy, for they decide to be gays because of a psychological or biological disorder. The question to be addressed is this: for a country whose president takes oath of office on the Bible, is it legitimate to approve of sodomy? And how about the priest who sanctifies it? The former, like Fisher King, invites doom to the land, and the latter brings perdition to himself. No Christian can deny that God destroyed Sodom for this vice. The same is the fate of any country that legitimizes it.

  14. raychael mufuken d says:

    no one can help who they fall in love with, whether that person be of the opposite sex or the same sex. how would you like it if you were outlawed from marrying the person you want to spend the rest of your life with because people are selfish and don’t support in favor of others? love is love and should not be judged by anyone else but the people involved. go gayysss

  15. Naileen G. says:

    I am completely in favor of gay marriage. Of course this is a matter of sentiments and emotions, but if we get right down to it, this is a plain violation of American rights. Is it not illegal to descriminate against someone on the basis of religious beliefs? Then tell me, how is it legal to ban gay marriage? What arguement does the government have? ONLY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. It is ILLEGAL. This is corruption of the government.

  16. Kathy T. says:

    I support Marriage Equality because I believe it is a civil right not a religious issue. Jesus Christ could neither read nor write. The Bible was written by scholars of the day and said to be “inspired” by God. I believe that it was. It was/is an “interpretation” by a mortal man. I also think that those people who use the scriptures to justify their behavior and beliefs “conveniently” pick and choose scriptures. If not, then the Sabbath would be kept on Saturday, not Sunday and “Christians” would not lie, steal, murder or cheat on their spouses. Or create MEGA churches! The Scriptures clearly point out, “The Most High God does not dwell in buildings made with hands!” Biblical scripture was used by proponents of slavery and at a KKK ceremony you’ll find the American flag, a cross and the Bible; all justify their actions backed by particular scriptures. If you believe and follow the Scriptures, how do you interpret this passage? “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”John 15:12 Are you one of the hyprocrite Christians? that add the words … as long as they are JUST LIKE ME!

  17. john says:

    look at it this way. animals follow their instinct. and their instinct is to mate with the opposite sex. plus a man and a man cant make a child because its unatural. I think gay marrage is wrong.

  18. babybreath says:

    Ok this conflict will go on forever about people rights to choose, civil rights, human rights constitutional rights; its all the same. From the bible point of view God created man and woman and gave us the right to choose (free will) and in essence he also set out the standards for us to serve him and to live by or reap the consequences he has decided upon if we choose not to obey his laws. If the gays choose to disobey his commandment. They will reap the same reward as Sodom and Gommorah (THIS IS WHAT THEY CHOOSE). Yes Jeasus commanded all of us to love as we have loved him but we are not loving him if we are not obeying his commnandments (WE ARE USING ARE FREE WILL) That’s what gays and lesbian are doing so with that being said ( let them be doomed and the bible commands. And the Government is upholding the law only by Gods permission until His appointed time. HOMESEXUALITY IS LUST IN THE FLESH AND THEY WILL ALWAYS CONTEND WITH IT AS LONGER AS THEY DESIRE THE INCLINATIONS OF THE HEART. GOD IS NOT LISTENING OR ACCEPTING THEIR PRAYERS UNLESS THEY REPENT

  19. porcia says:

    hey everyone listen to me i beleive that gay marriage is wrong think of it this way why would a man put his —– in another mans —– if he can do that to a famale i really dont understand….

  20. Chris A. says:

    To me i beleive everyone is entitled to there own opinions, however when they try to take action based off those opinions which limit the rights of certain people, is when i start getting a little ticked. I mean the reason why this has become such a big issue is because people just have to put there noses in where it does not belong. Let gay couples have what they want they are people just like everyone else, they cant help who they love and i think that its stupid that so many of them ar discrimiated and hated for it. I as a straight male, feel that it is none of our concern what they do, i mean what if it was your brother or sister who was in a gay relationship? What would you do then? Think about it before you go shooting your mouth off

  21. kathryn says:

    i love gay people

  22. Your Mom says:


  23. Your Mom says:

    I like gay people, they’re friendly!=D

  24. Mickey. says:

    Why ruin someones happiness? Society is so screwed up.

  25. wow says:

    just remerber that marrige is just papers and if you really love somone than you shouldt need papers to show it!

  26. doesnt matter says:

    Okay for all those people who say that they are against gays I have something to say. If you think that it is so wrong for someone to love someone of the same sex then why dont you prove a point. All of you say the same thing!!! Why dont you guys stick your….in a guys… because its just the same thing as stickin it in a girl? So next time you try to argue that point you should probably just… not do it! And for all the guys that think girl on girl action is so hot … most of those girls are probably gay or bi sexual so think about that next time you touch yourself looking at girl on girl! bye

  27. Jennifer says:

    You know what? For those of you who say that Gay marriage is wrong…..IT’S NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUISNESS!!! You shouldn’t really care about what gay people do, it’s not your life. Does it really matter what they do for sex? No, not really. It’s their life! It’s not fair for them, I’m straight and I have the right to marry a guy, but most importantly marry with someone I love. And Gays don’t have the right marry who they love. Think about it people!!! We have the power, the right to marry and Gays don’t!! That’s just wrong! It’s very selfish to say that it’s wrong and that Gays should not get married. Very selfish. I support Gays, Lesbians, Homosexual, and Transgenders. They are human! We are all human!! We all should have the right!! Think about it!

  28. MARY R. MILLER says:


  29. Aaron says:

    How could you christians? I am a straight God fearing man. i see you supposed
    “christians” try to judge these people for love. I have walked by faith all my life and if you people cant understand God’s forgiving,redeeming love; how can you label yourselves as followers of Christ. Only throw the stone if you are without sin.
    @babybreath what makes you think their prayers wont get answered through jesus’ name we are all saved if we so choose regardless.gays don’t destroy the sanctity of marriage it’s the people who don’t love one another that do.

  30. Allie H says:

    To be completely honest marriage is marriage and you do need those “papers” you would need them in any other case of straight marriage and why should we allow god to dictate what we think or believe for those people who do not believe in god which many homosexuals do not then why should they have to follow by what the bible says if there is free religion is this country just because what you think is morally incorrect doesn’t match what other people think is doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a law

    here is what i think is wrong with religion the catholic church will hide and protect child molesters just to keep there name clear and why do we need multimillion dollar churches to pray in if we could pray in small old churches what is morally wrong that our country will let us head bang and listen to rap and hard metal but gays are immoral

    how about this a man was just recently arrested for not paying child support on his three kids which were all from different women but homosexuals shouldn’t adopt children even though they could be given better chances and a equal fight at life is that morally correct?

    and how about the fact that we will send homosexuals over seas to die for this country but we won’t let them get married or even say that they are proudly gay until now

    If you are injured in battle and you can’t move and someone that is gay runs out and saves your life by dragging you out of battle and letting you go home and see your family one more time is that person a criminal is that person morally incorrect, and remember that person just laid down his/her life for u! can u answer me that?

  31. Allie H says:


    Making since to nature? did you know that over 1500 animals in the animal kingdom practice homosexuality including some of the most popular animals including dwarf chimpanzees and even lions so put morals a side and think about what is natural or better yet YouTube it because animals in the NATURE are doing it and have been for a while so why can’t we?

  32. Lexyy says:

    Lets just start of with, I’m a straight 17 year old girl who believes in same sex marriage very strongly.

    How is it fair to say it is not right. We live in America, which is based on freedom right? Freedom should say it all. If America is truly a free country, then why is same sex marriage such a big deal. Yes, i respect people who are Christian/ any other religion that doesn’t except it because they don’t want to disobey what they believe in. People who are not, have no right to be pointing their fingers. Everyone should be able to marry who they love. Does anyone even know what love’s definition is? If you dont. It is.

    *profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

    The two key words in the definition is another person. If the definition were to say passionate affection between a man and a women, it would be different. Love leads to marriage, and if someone loves someone the same sex then marriage should be an option.. but its not. Some people argue that it will have an affect on the legal system. To me, i think its all a bunch of b.s.. What I mean when I say this is that everyone who is married, gets special benefits. For example, social security benefits. Couples who are married, are somewhat considered as one. When one dies before the age of 70, the other gets their social security money that they have worked for their whole life. People who are not straight, and are together can’t have that same liability. I know people who live next door to me, who are going threw this as you read. They have been together for 14 years and don’t have the right to do as straights do. I also feel very strongly about this…

    It’s not your life, its theirs.
    Its not affecting you any..

    So why should it matter?
    Love does not equal out to anything more then what you feel.

  33. Sarah says:

    I just don’t get what the big deal about gay marriage is. Don’t like gay marriages? Don’t get one. Think it’s against the bible? Don’t get one. Think it’s uncomfortable or wrong? THEN DON’T BE GAY. Letting gay people get married won’t make you less of a man/woman or less straight. They are JUST PEOPLE. Being gay doesn’t mean you are any different… why do people care what they do and who they do it with. Why do you want to spend your life taking away other people’s rights…? If you hate gay marriage so much, then don’t get one. Why it bothers people so much, I have no fricking idea.

  34. Kayla says:

    I hate the arguements, It shouldn’t even need to BE argued over! You christians treat gay people as if they aren’t human, and don’t deserve the right to be happy. Its ridiculous! If your ‘god’ was so forgiving and righteous, he wouldn’t hate someone just because of the gender they happen to like. ‘He’ created us all equal, did he not? Then we should TREAT them equally, and not try and ‘cure’ them like they have some kind of bloody illness that has to be treated.

  35. Joe says:

    Many Christians don’t find anything wrong with letting two people of the same sex get married, some churches doing the honors. The others give the rest bad names.

  36. Val says:

    LOVE is not about religion or equality…. it just happens! i might still be a teenager but i do understand. when people fall in love they don’t care what shape, size, color, or even gender they are. Plus it isn’t about what older people think.. it’s my generation that we are talking about… And I Do Accept gay marriage.. actually i’m not going to call it that, that’s rude. Lets Just say i Accept Their Decision of marrying the person they LOVE ..

  37. Kevin Mesch says:

    Hey guys! My name is Kevin, I was wondering if I could get some opinions from all of you.
    Here is my E-Mail: Please share your opinion, I only ask you to not use any slurs please, as this is for my Senior Project. I am Pro-Gay Marriage. I really believe that you should be able to marry the person you love. Thanks Again!

  38. Arianna says:

    First off, after reading all of these opinions, I would like to say mine. I am very pro-gay marriage because love is love, it doesn’t matter your gender. It doesn’t matter if ‘God’ says it is an abomination. If you really read and understood the bible like you Christians claim you have, you would understand the scripture where he says that he will love you and never abandon you whatsoever the circumstances.
    Second off, towards the Christians on this site that say that it is an abomination…I am sure that you have your reasons to believe this, example the story of Lot and the two angels the Lord sent down as men. The people of the city asked where they were so that they could have sex with them. Of course, the Lord then destroyed the city. But, in other scriptures, he says that he will love us for every part of us, no matter our sins. He gives us a choice to do what we want, believe what we want. So just stop your argument right there.
    Third off, legal rights. People say that gays, lesbians, transgenders, and bi-sexuals have no right to raise children or get married. They say that if they raise children, they will confuse them. I know a boy who has to lesbian mothers, and he has told me it is the same as having two parents, as a mom and a dad.
    If you would like to leave a comment about MY comment, you can reach me here:
    Thank you and have a nice day.

  39. rosa says:

    everyone deserves a chance to be who they wanna be everybody is equal. & it should matter to anyone else cause its forsure that your not gunna be the one living with them. so just let them be happy and leave them alone.(:

  40. Proud Wiccan says:

    All these comments are fair, and have some truth to them. Only problem is is that no one has any real reason why they believe what they believe. Some are against it because of their religion, some people are for it because of the government, and they want nothing to do with the government. No one stands in the middle like I do. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church, was babtized, and asked for forgiveness. Only thing is is that I stilled sinned, especially as a teenager. I had pre-marital sex when I was 14, I did drugs just to try them, I even concieved my child in a swimming pool when I was 19. I went through my bisexual stage till I joined the military. I was discharged for not being able to loose weight, which I found out I was pregnant a month later. Any ways, the point is that everyone has sin in their lives. Yea God might of stated that “a man should not lie with another man, and a women should not lie with another woman.” But it also says that Jesus died for our sins, and if we ask for forgivness then he will forgive. I’m not proud of all the things I’ve done, but I do know that if I ask for forgivness, then I will receive forgiveness. A murderer can be on his last breath, and ask to be forgived for all his sins, and he will be forgived, and he will go to heaven. There is no wrong or right way to do things. Same sex marriage is not something that should be debated on because this is not what this country was built on. This country was built on freedom. A way to express yourself the way you want to express it. No matter if you love a man, woman, or if your of the same sex loving someone of the same sex. You are who you are, and whether you believe in God or not if you asked to be forgiven for your sins you will be forgive. This country has gone to hell with this controversy because some people believe everyone should be the same. You can’t force your religion on someone, you can’t make someone stop being gay, you can’t force anyone to marry you, and you certaintly can’t decide who can be with who just because of laws. It don’t matter if they make a law banning same sex marriage, people will still love who they want. It all comes down to why they feel the way they feel for their significant lover. Look at the man who used to be a woman, he had all of his children. And he came on to the Doctor’s Show and stated that the government knows him as a man. The bottom line is that you believe what you want, but God still loves everyone the same, and no person on this planet can tell you that he doesn’t love you because your gay. I’ve heard that one a lot in my years in high school. So be who you want to be no matter what anyone says, because God is the only one that can Judge you for who you are. If you have to wait till your 40 to have this country realize that same sex marriage is ok than so be it. As long as you love the person that loves you back regardless who you are. Like me I’m Wiccan as well as a Christian. You can have to religions, I believe in the Lord he is the almighty. He is the only God above all others. But I also believe in Witchcraft, and I’m really good at it. So be who you are and no one is going to tear you down for who you are. An old saying of my mine is “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but Words will never hurt me!!!!!!”

  41. Bryanna Skye says:

    I am currently doing a project for a middle school Class Based Assessment. Honestly, I don’t understand why people even care. THEY’RE NOT HURTING YOU. You don’t have to sit there and watch them do their business. They’re not forcing it down your throats, no matter how much you feel like they are. It’s in the Constitution. Hell, it’s even in the Preamble. They have the right to pursue their dreams. They’re still people no matter what. Why can’t you just live with that? What they do with their private lives shouldn’t be decided by anyone but themselves. I may only be 14, but I’m not stupid.

  42. Angry With You says:

    I think the problem with homophobes is that they are scared of something that’s different. They probably grew up in a rich environment where they got everything they wanted and everybody tried to be the same.

    Being gay, lesbian or bisexual isn’t a crime. It’s not illegal to be active in a same-sex relationship, so why is it illegal in most states to marry the person you love?

    I agree with Chris A. He made a point that what if it was your sister or brother who was gay? I guarantee that if someone you loved was gay then you would support them.

    People are people, straight people are straight people, gay people and gay people. Opposite-sex marriage isn’t illegal, so why is same-sex marriage illegal? This isn’t equal rights.

    For all those people out there who are against gays, I want to hear a real reason. Not the “all gays go to hell” reason because I’m not religious. I want a real reason why somebody should not be able to marry the person they are in love with. My best friend is in love with someone of the same-sex. I support her and wish that they could get married. We live in Alaska and same-sex marriage is illegal. I don’t think that it’s fair that I can get married to my boyfriend, but she can’t marry her girlfriend. My friend and I love our boyfriend/girlfriend the same amount yet to love her girlfriend the way she wants to is illegal.

    Why? Just tell me why.

  43. ADmiral_ ProuDm0RE™ says:

    ..I am anti SSR! y??,, simply because its so disgusting to look at..for me it is only a mistaken feeling because of the intimacy of both couple…

  44. Dexter of Subrbia says:

    Why is this even being debated? Why should it matter what religion you are? This is a secular nation. It does not matter what your religious belief is
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
    People claim being homosexual is unnatural. Animals engage in homosexual behavior. Homosexuality has been part of every society.
    If the government made a law outlawing heterosexual marriage. So many people would be crying out to government.

  45. alex cunningham says:

    hey gays you are stupid

  46. Jojo says:

    Alex, I have no clue if your being sarcastic or not but either way your comment was innopropriate and rude. If you can’t say anything nice or if you can’t put it in a better way don’t say or type it. Especially on the internet. Just a friendly suggestion from one blogger to another.

  47. JAY HARDY says:

    IT REALLY DOES NOT MATTER WHO SAYS SAME SEX MARRIAGE IS ALRIGHT. We think all we have to do is convince ourselves and others that something is Ok and that makes it OK. It does not matter who endorses same sex marriage as right. It
    is wrong. I am a believer in a higher power and for me it is GOD. He classifies this activity as an abomination. I don’t understand how those who consider themselves as believers can read their Bible and still think it’s ok.
    Some, of course, are not believers and think it’s just another great activity. The end will give us the absolute
    truth. If I find myself wrong, and it’s ok then so be it.
    But I’m not wrong and there will be many who will find out
    they were wrong and will not be allowed to enter Heaven.
    Please pray about this and seek god’s will. Thank You.

  48. Sydnee Theriault says:

    Homosexuals have the same right as straight people do! People keep saying its wrong for a child to have to deal with same sex parents when”there are more single parents who play both roles”what’s the difference? Also there are people who say god made man and woman not man and man or woman and woman and there are a lot of people who say well ” gays won’t go to heaven because they committed a sin” but did they really all they have done is protect what they believe in thats my opinion. And the people who dont agree should think about how would they feel if someone told you you couldn’t marry someone you wanted to how would you feel ? Huh exactly