John M. Becker

Half of Americans Say Marriage Equality Guaranteed in Constitution

Filed By John M. Becker | March 05, 2014 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: ABC News, constitutional rights, gay marriage, marriage equality, polling, religious freedom, religious liberty, same-sex marriage, special rights, tipping point, Washington Post

ap-charles-dharapak.jpgThe Washington Post and ABC News released a major new poll today showing that a record 59% of Americans support marriage equality, and a full 50% believe the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians is guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

This is huge. As David Badash points out at The New Civil Rights Movement, while support for marriage equality has surged in recent years, the belief that equal marriage is guaranteed in the Constitution has always lagged behind. But now, for the first time, we're seeing support for a constitutional right to marry hitting the 50% mark.

Of course, it's not average Americans who have the final say on the scope of the Constitution, but the nine justices of the Supreme Court. Still, today's poll is significant because it demonstrates that public support for the constitutional argument for marriage equality has hit a critical point. These days the Court is exceedingly cautious not to get too far out in front of public opinion (they don't want another Roe v. Wade).

This poll sends the Supremes an important signal, that they have the space to do the right thing and rule for equality the next time a marriage case comes into their courtroom.

The Washington Post notes that the 25-point spread between supporters (59%) and opponents (34%) of marriage equality is the widest margin in the history of Post-ABC polling on the issue. And the ground has shifted on the freedom to marry more quickly than almost any other issue: in a Post-ABC poll ten years ago, in March 2004, the numbers were 59% against equal marriage rights for same-sex couples and just 38% in favor -- almost exactly the opposite of where we are today.

The poll also shows precisely why bills that would create special rights to anti-LGBT religion-based discrimination, like the one Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed last week, are failing so spectacularly all across the country: they're massively unpopular.

According to the poll, public opinion is more unified on recent proposals that would allow businesses to refuse serving gays and others based on the religious convictions of the business owner. Nearly seven in 10 respondents say businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to gays. On this question, majorities across partisan lines said businesses should not be allowed to deny service. Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a measure that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to customers based on religious grounds.

"She did the right thing in vetoing that," said Charles Musser of Marana, Ariz., who said that he opposes same-sex marriage and adoption rights for gays but that he thought the legislation was ill-conceived. If they passed that law, "that would open the door to all kinds of discrimination," he said.

The poll also found that nearly 80% of respondents say gay people make just as good parents as straight people, and 61% support adoption equality -- up from just 49% in 2006.

A graphic from the Washington Post's article is after the jump. (Click to enlarge)


Photo: Charles Dharapak / AP

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