Earlier this week, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton released a video statement in support of marriage equality (see below). Clinton is the newest addition to the growing political support for marriage equality.
In fact this month’s three big gay-marriage moments where prominent politicians repudiated their past positions have highlighted how the political response to this issue is evolving. For Democrats, it is now riskier to withhold a public stance on gay marriage than to rush in line in support. Republicans are also joining the cause in support making it less and less of a partisan issue. For example, Ohio’s Republican Sen. Rob Portman recently came out in support for marriage equality when previously he was against it. He said his view changed because about two years ago his son told him he was gay.
And while some may criticize the senator for the change in beliefs, he is not alone. A poll conducted this month by Pew Research Center, surveyed 1,501 adults nationwide and found that 49% of people support same-sex marriage while 44% oppose. This has changed significantly since the 2003 nationwide poll that found most Americans (58%) opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and just a third (33%) in favor. The largest group of supporters come from the “Millennials” (those born since 1980 and age 18-32 today). 70% of Millennials support same-sex marriage growing from 51% in 2003. This is significant because today, 27% of adults are in the Millennial generation.
To better understand this change in the direction of support, the new survey investigated whether participants had always held this view or if they have changed their mind on this issue. They found that more than a quarter of same-sex marriage proponents say their views have changed.
The reasons behind the shift varied but there were a few noticeable trends (see graph). 32% attributed the change to knowing someone whether it is a friend, family member or other acquaintance, who is homosexual. Very similar to Senator Portman’s situation. 25% said that their personal views changed due to extended thought on the issue or simply because they have grown older.
So with a growing number of the electorate showing support for marriage equality, politicians from both parties can no longer hide behind the traditional safe response of “let there be civil unions, not gay marriage, and let each state set its own policy”. For supporters of gay marriage, this statement appears to be a separate-but-equal proposition for the gay community. For opponents of same-sex unions, this stance invites legislative chaos for what they believe to be an unalterable human institution. This issue is not going away any time soon with more and more states bringing up marriage equality based legislation. The “safe” answers are no longer enough and politicians will have to decide quickly which side they want to side with.
To read more visit:
The Human Rights Campaign and Politico for more on the Hillary Clinton’s new stance and the political impact.
People Press for more on the study investigating individual’s personal stance on marriage equality.