Marriage Equality Gaining Momentum Ahead of Pending Supreme Court Rulings

Stunning new public opinion polling out yesterday from Pew Research demonstrates just how quickly momentum is building for marriage equality ahead of the Supreme Court's historic ruling on marriage rights for same-sex couples this month.

Across every single measure for which Pew has historic trend data, support for gays and lesbians is at an all-time high:

  • Eighty-seven percent say they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a number that stood at 61 percent in 1993.

  • Sixty-seven percent favor allowing gays and lesbians to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them the same rights as married couples, another all-time high, and up 21 points over the last 10 years.
  • Sixty percent say that homosexuality should be accepted by society, an all-time high and an increase of 13 points in the last 10 years.
  • Fifty-five percent say they would not be upset if they had a child who told them he or she is gay or lesbian, up from a dismal 9 percent in 1985.
  • Fifty-four percent have a favorable opinion of gay men, and 58 percent have a favorable opinion of lesbian women, up 16 and 19 points, respectively, over the last decade.
  • Fifty-one percent support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, an all-time high and up 16 points from just four years ago.
  • Pew's polling, which comes just a few weeks before the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of DOMA and California's Proposition 8, underscores how rapidly the nation has evolved over a relatively short time on marriage rights.

    With respect to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), four separate polls this year have shown that the public strongly favors federal recognition for legally married gay couples. Depending upon how the question is framed, between 56 percent and 63 percent of Americans agree that it is time for the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA and treat couples who have legally married in their home states the same:

  • Sixty percent in a March CBS News/New York Times poll thought the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages.
  • Fifty-nine percent of Americans specifically oppose Section 3 of DOMA as per a Center for American Progress poll in February.
  • Fifty-six percent of respondents to a CNN poll in March said the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages.
  • Furthermore, in a Project Right Side 2012 Election Night survey of battleground state voters, 62 percent said yes, if a state recognizes same-sex marriage, then the federal government should acknowledge the state's decision and grant same-sex couples who were legally married in that state the same benefits as married heterosexual couples.

    However, a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll stands out, seemingly revealing a split electorate when it comes to DOMA. Unfortunately, as shown above, the balance of the data on this issue clearly points to this poll being an outlier. This is likely a function of a variety of things, most likely survey mode (it was conducted among an online panel) and questionnaire design (unlike most surveys, it explicitly offers an "undecided" option).

    In situations such as this, it's important that we look at two things: 1) the historic trends from poll to poll, and 2) the balance of the data, aggregated across all available polls. Across both instances, what we've affirmed is that a bipartisan majority of Americans wants to see the U.S. Supreme Court overturn laws that discriminate against loving, committed gay couples. And the Supreme Court will be on safe ground in the court of public opinion if they do the right thing by striking down DOMA and Prop 8.