The bells have rung for gay marriage, at least in Massachusetts, which last Monday became the first state in the union to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Bay State victory, however, is only one round in the drive for nationwide acceptance of same-sex marriage. Even gay rights advocates concede they still face countless hurdles -- including public opinion, which remains overall decisively opposed to the notion of marriage between two men or two women.
Results of a poll released last week by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg National Election Survey show that a large majority of Americans do not want their home states to ratify laws allowing gay men or lesbians to wed. Call the couplings civil unions instead of marriage, though, and enough people say yes to create a slim majority for the idea of some form of legal recognition for gay couples. And more Americans oppose amending the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage than support that approach.
Will these views reverberate in the political arena? President Bush is on record as supporting a constitutional amendment preventing gay marriage. Sen. John F. Kerry, meanwhile, says he's opposed to an amendment, but favors civil unions over same-sex marriage. So is each man playing to his constituency, or can one claim an advantage on the issue? Outlook asked the Annenberg pollsters to break the survey numbers down by states to see where opinions fall in the much-talked-about "cultural divide." Red states are those won by Bush in 2000 by 6 percentage points or more. Blue states are those that Al Gore won by the same margin. Purple states are the 16 "swing" states where the winner's margin of victory was less than 6 percentage points.
The poll is based on a random sampling of 3,775 adults interviewed from May 3 through May 16. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points on the constitutional amendment question, and plus or minus 3 on the state law question.
1. Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment saying that no state can allow two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other?
% in Favor % OpposedOverall4250Red4645Blue3754Purple4251
2. Would you favor or oppose a law in your state that would allow two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other?
% in Favor % OpposedOverall3061Red2665Blue3949Purple2765
3. Those who said they opposed gay marriage were asked if they would support civil unions. Their responses, combined with the responses to question 2, yielded the following results regarding some form of legal recognition -- either marriage or civil unions -- for same-sex couples.
% in Favor % OpposedOverall5138Red4247Blue6125Purple5138
Note: Those who responded "don't know" or who did not answer are not shown.
-- Zofia Smardz, for Outlook