Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Politics: Majorities In 12 States Support Marriage

In 2012, there was majority support for marriage equality in 12 states and the District of Columbia, according to a recent report released by UCLA's Williams Institute. Those states were Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Hawaii, Oregon, New York, Maine, Washington, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Colorado and California. (The District of Columbia had the largest support, at 62%.) The seven jurisdictions in bold already have marriage equality, while Hawaii (54%), Oregon (54%), New Jersey (51%), Rhode Island (50%), Colorado (50%) and California (50%) all have either civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships. Hawaii, Oregon, Colorado and California all have voter-approved state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. However, Oregon and possibly California and New Jersey may be voting to enact marriage equality at the ballot box in the near future.

The Williams Institute report's analysis indicates that ballot measures in several states (including Oregon, California and New Jersey) may be successful in the very near future.

This research brief identi ed that there 12 states plus the District ofColumbia presently with a majority (50% or above) in support of same-sex marriage. And, given current trends in public opinion on this issue, an additional 8 states will join this group by 2014. 
Finally, there are 10 states that have previously passed constitutionalamendments to not introduce same-sex marriages that now have a majority or are within five percentage points of a majority in favor same-sex marriage (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). These states may be the future political arenas where existing constitutional amendments may be repealed in order to perform marriages for same-sex couples in those states.
This does put the poll question I previously asked back on the table: now that majority support is indicated for marriage equality, should those in favor of it use the ballot box to enact our public policy aims of enacting the civil right to civil marriages in those states? The dilemma is that it has long been a policy position of civil rights activists that "civil rights should never be subject to the tyranny of the majority." So, to now say that we will use the majority now that it is in our favor could be perceived as hypocritical. However, there are clear real and tangible harms to LGBT citizens by sticking to principle and not using every available means to end discrimination against same-sex couples as soon as possible. What do you think? Vote now:

Should New Jersey LGBT activists agree to allow a referendum on marriage equality in November 2013? free polls 
The Williams Report gives the level of support for marriage equality in every state in 2004 (numbers in green) and 2012 (numbers in blue) and uses that data to conclude that the rate of support is about 1.6 percentage points per year, on average, in every state. (It should be noted that that is the average rate; in some states the rate of increase of support for marriage equality is increasing at a more rapid rate, in some it is doing so at a slower rate. The key point is that support for marriage equality is increasing in every state.) This is shown in the figure below:

I think the proper thing to do is probably wait for the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on the civil rights of LGBT people in the Hollingsworth (California's Proposition 8) and Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act) cases. If the judiciary branch refuses to play its traditional role in our democracy of protecting the civil rights of minorities, then going to the ballot box to enact those rights seems perfectly justifiable.

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