Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Amendments, same-sex marriage, and polling data

This polling report (about a year old, but still indicative) suggests that there’s not much support for amending the U.S. constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. When you look at these results (see questions 50-52), the trends are hard to make out. As nearly as I can guess, opposition to same-sex marriage has probably declined somewhat, but the numbers bounce around a good bit, perhaps in response to things like attempts by local officials to offer gay couples the opportunity actually to marry and like a national debate. So we don’t know what public opinion would look like at the end of an extended and focused national debate. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think we’d be at 70-30, but 60-65% opposition isn’t out of the question. (Thus the percentage opposed was 53% in July, 2003, but bumped up to 63% in response to Gavin Newsome’s antics, falling back down to 53% in July, 2005, after many months of no news.)

But as the Pew analysts note, opposition to gay marriage doesn’t translate into support for amending the Constitution. I would, however, add: at least as long as there is no federal judicial provocation, which might send opposition to gay marriage and support for a constitutional amendment soaring.

Of course, state constitutional amendments upholding traditional marriage tend to be big winners wherever they’re offered. "The people" may agree with Rauch that this is a matter for states. Left to their own devices, many, perhaps most, states would legislatively or constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage and a few would permit it.

This leads me to offer some unsolicited advice to advocates of same-sex marriage, on a point on which I hope we can agree. The surest path to establishing same-sex marriage is through a legislature. Litigation, or anything that appears similarly high-handed, courts (so to speak) a backlash, likely increasing support for legislation or constitutional amendments upholding traditional marriage. What’s true at the federal level is in these cases likely to be true at the state level as well. In any state where a court decision favoring same-sex marriage is likely to withstand the inevitable backlash, the legislature would have been likely to pass it in the first place. So stick with legislation. I’ll argue with you...civilly of course. And I expect you to return the favor.

Update: Here’s more recent polling data, not substantially different from the Pew data, though a little more encouraging for proponents of an amendment, and here’s the write-up of the polling data.

Discussions - 8 Comments

Yes, legislation. It’s time liberals rediscovered the value of public debate, win or lose.

Well, of course. The FMA has no chance of passing, an Amendment that would disable the federal courts on the matter might, but it’s not on the table now. The danger remains that the those courts would bring the public debate to an end and marginalize those who have plenty of reasons to be against same sex marriage, which is not at all the same thing as being for outlawing gay sex. To gays who whine that their sexual behavior will be regarded as illegitimate or immoral until they can marry, respond that you’ll cave if they’ll agree only to have sex within marriage. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Americans and certainly not the mainstream media regard sex outside of marriage by anyone as intrinsically immoral. I agree with Joe’s thought that our creeping and sometimes creepy libertarianism will probably bring us same-sex marriage through many of the state legislatures and courts soon enough. The young, studies show, are actually more pro-life than their parents, but increasingly indifferent on this marriage issue. Still, I remember that the Democrat Carey McWilliams wrote what gays do should be regarded as the exception to the rule of heterosexual marital responsibility,
and it would be folly to sacrifice an indispensable social institution for the exception. It would be easy to regard what gays do as better than what heteros do and still not see the point in same-sex marriage--that was apparently the view of some smart men over the centuries. It would be possible to argue that what’s new today is the attempt to reconstruct all of life on the gay model, but that’s not for me to do.

Whatever be the amendments or polling data be,people take their own time when something unconventional come up.
It takes time to get itself into society and same sex marriage is a new and unnatural issue and should be handled with care.

I believe if its a so-called democratic country, what about the rights of those wishing to ve a same sex marriage????? Let them enjoy their fredom too.

Eliza...we stop people from doing things all the time, and for the same essential reason...the public welfare. And it’s a republic, not a democracy.

Me too dont agree to Eliza. Allowing same sex marriage to one and later wat if it start spreading like a communicable disease??????

Canny, do you really think that if same-sex marriage is legal, everyone will want one?

Every body remembers that humen's life seems to be not very cheap, nevertheless people require money for various issues and not every man gets big sums money. Hence to get some personal loans or just short term loan would be a proper solution.

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