Marriage and the Polls

I don't think there can be much debate that those of us who favor encouraging gay couples to settle Marriage_1 down and get married are winning the argument. Here's a Pew summary of polling that takes the long view. In 1996, when I wrote "Virtually Normal," the first major book to advance the case for marriage rights for gays, 27 percent of the public agreed. That number is now 39 percent. 65 percent disagreed a decade ago, a number that has now declined to 51 percent. After a spike in opposition to marriage rights in 2004 - the year the Republicans decided to mount a campaign against it - the public has shifted dramatically. I'm most surprised by the demographic where the change has been most pronounced: those over 65. In February 2004, 58 percent of those over 65 said they "strongly opposed" marriage rights for gays. Now, only 33 percent hold that position. Who'd have guessed we'd make the biggest in-roads among seniors? (Of course, it's partly a function of their being the group most opposed in the first place). This shift seems to me to be salient with respect to the idea of amending the federal constitution to ban any legal protections for gay couples. Whatever your view, passing a constitutional amendment to enshrine for ever a public policy position that is in major flux is extremist and imprudent. But moderation and prudence are not virtues currently valued in the GOP.