National Journal just released an interesting new poll of Republican insiders showing that more then half of them (56 percent) want to avoid the issue of marriage equality rather than confronting it. Republicans in positions of influence just want the issue to go away. That’s a sign that marriage equality opponents are losing the argument.
But more to the point, it’s also evidence that the intensity of whatever opposition remains is rapidly dissipating.
Many recent national polls have shown that support for marriage equality is growing. But what’s also interesting is that the opposition, while still present, may be growing less fervent.
Let’s take New York as a test example. Despite the recent passage of a marriage equality bill, support for marriage equality in New York isn’t that much higher than in the country as a whole — it’s currently at 54 percent, according to Quinnipiac, which is similar to the low-50s level of support we see in national polls.
Support for same-sex marriage in New York varies depending on religion, with white Catholics being evenly divided at 48 percent opposed and 48 percent supporting. But white Catholic voters in New York approve of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who drove passage of th marriage equality bill, is at a nearly 3-1 margin. White Protestant opposition to same-sex marriage is even higher at 54 percent, and yet 60 percent of white Protestants approve of the job Cuomo is doing.
What this suggests is that some of the people opposed to same-sex marriage rights nevertheless support Cuomo anyway. This gets to something I think polling has yet to properly examine — the dwindling importance of same-sex marriage to even those voters who voice opposition to it. The shift towards support for marriage equality isn’t just a matter of more people saying they support it. It’s also a function of people who are nominally opposed caring less about the issue in general as the inevitability of marriage equality becomes more apparent.
The reason that matters is that even if support for same-sex marriage rights in the near term reaches a ceiling of say, 60 percent, much of the remaining opposition may be softer than polls simply measuring support or opposition might suggest, and therefore less political risk for politicians in supporting marriage equality. LGBT rights activists don’t have to convince the entire country to support same-sex marriage rights to win. They will also continue winning, and moving the country inexorably forward, as the opposition itself loses enthusiasm for what is increasingly a lost cause.