A new public survey by Field Poll has found that a majority of California residents support same-sex marriage, while opposition to marriage equality has fallen substantially.
Of the 1,000 respondents, 59% now favor marriage equality while only 34% are opposed. Since voters enacted Proposition 8 at the ballot three and a half years ago, opposition recorded by Field Poll has fallen by around 8%, and since 2003 opposition has plummeted by 16%.
The question asked of respondents was:
As you know, there has been a lot of news lately about gays and lesbians, that is, men and women who are homosexuals. Do you approve or disapprove of California allowing homosexuals to marry members of theirown sex and have regular marriage laws apply to them? Which of the following most closely resembles your own view about state laws regarding the relationships oftwo people of the same sex – gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry; gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not legally marry; or, thereshould be no legal recognition of a gay or lesbian couple’s relationship?
As to the reasons behind this shift in opinion, pollsters point out that the increase in support goes beyond the obvious generational trends.
Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said the move to a 25-point gap goes beyond the gradual increase in support that has been expected as young voters age and “replace” older voters in the electorate.
“This is now showing that opinions are changing irrespective of generational replacement,” DiCamillo said. “This is real change.”
DiCamillo said voters still hold the judiciary in relatively high regard, and years of gay marriage court battles in California are likely contributing to the opinion shift.
“The winds of change are blowing in other states (and) when judges start ruling the same way, I believe that has an influence,” he said.
DiCamillo also suggests that other states acting to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, namely New York, Washington and Maryland, may also have helped to make marriage equality less of the derisive issue it once was.
However, sentiment still remains mixed among voters age 65 and older, African-Americans and Protestants.
Republicans and political conservatives are, according to the poll, the demographics that still have majorities who oppose same-sex couples marrying.
In Proposition 8-related news, a three-member panel of the Ninth Circuit handed down a 2:1 decision last month in favor of upholding District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
The three-member panel chose to rule narrowly in this case, declining to answer the question of whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and instead ruling that, under even the most basic level of judicial review, Proposition 8′s discriminatory nature is unconstitutional.
Supporters of the gay marriage ban then had a choice of whether to appeal for a full Ninth Circuit Court review or to appeal directly to the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit rarely grants what is known as an en banc review but after a bout of apparent indecision, Proposition 8 supporters have chosen the latter.
Care2 blogger and law professor Jessica Pieklo has explained why the 9th Circuit’s opinion seems particularly tailored to appeal to the Supreme Court’s Justice Kennedy.