Frank Bruni: Examining the Support for Marriage Equality
Third Way, the centrist Democratic think thank, is about to release a report based on polling from Washington State, which was one of the three states, along with Maine and Maryland, where a majority of voters approved same-sex marriage in Election Day referendums. And while the report and the poll are the work of a partisan as opposed to an independent group, the findings echo other research into support for same-sex marriage and have the ring of truth. The report, to which I’ll provide a link when it goes online tomorrow, gives a strong sense of how support varies according to age group and according to church attendance and according to gender. But what I found most revealing and instructive was this: among voters who saw the desire by gays and lesbians to be legally wedded as a bid primarily for the rights and protections that heterosexual couples have, same-sex marriage was a loser. Only 26 percent of them voted for its legalization, while 74 percent voted against. But among voters who believed that gays and lesbians were chiefly interested in being able to pledge the fullest and most public commitment possible to their partners, same-sex marriage was a huge, huge winner. Eighty-five percent of those voters supported it, while only 15 percent opposed it. That’s a fascinating microcosm of, and window into, broader political dynamics. When an initiative in this country is framed or understood largely as an attempt by a given constituency to get more, the opposition to it is frequently bolstered, the resistance strengthened. Even if the constituency is trying to right a wrong or rectify a disadvantage.