Gay Couples Gain Ground

The latest poll reveals that public opinion remains equally divided on the question of marriage equality. The shift from last year remains within the margin of error, and the basic balance is 50-50. Last year, it was 49 - 46 in favor; this year it's 50 - 47 against. I suppose some will argue that that's a turning of the tide, but it seems a trivial difference to me.

But the big news is that the debate over marriage has made a big difference on the debate about civil unions. A whopping 2 - 1 majority now favors civil unions for gay couples, defined in the poll as "giving them the legal rights of married couples in areas such as health insurance, inheritance and pension coverage?" That includes surprisingly big jumps among self-described conservatives:

Support for such arrangements is now 15 points higher than it was a few years ago among conservatives; it's up 13 points among Republicans.

Meghan and Cindy McCain are more in touch with reality than John McCain. On ending the military ban on openly gay soldiers, the public overwhelmingly favors it, by 75 to 24 percent.

The other factor, however, is intensity of opinion, where the opposition is very intense. Those strongly in favor make up 31 percent; those strongly against 42 percent.

Two other notable nuggets. For those under 30, 65 percent favor marriage equality, a big jump from the last ABC poll, and the first time that number has exceeded 50 percent. And Independents are far, far closer to Democrats than Republicans on this issue. That suggests to me that this is becoming a liability for Republicans. They cannot avoid the issue since their base is so passionate about it, but in a general election, any emphasis on it will alienate a lot of Independents.

All I can say is that when we began this campaign in earnest two dacdes ago, I would have rubbed my eyes in disbelief at these numbers. I can't believe how far we've some, and I hope soon we will be able to stop arguing about it altogether and get on with our lives as equals.