What backlash?

It was reasonable to be afraid that the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court decision on same-sex marriage, plus the guerrilla wedding-license movement that started in San Francisco and has been spreading, would create an anti-gay-rights backlash. But those fears seem, at least at first blush, to have been unfounded, as were the similar fears about Lawrence v. Texas.

Polling Report shows an ABC News poll on the following question:

“Do you think homosexual couples should or should not be allowed to form legally recognized civil unions, giving them the legal rights of married couples in areas such as health insurance, inheritance and pension coverage?”

             Y    N

3/04   51  46

2/04   45  48

1/04   46  51

9/03   40  51

CNN/USA Today/Gallup asks roughly the same question and gets roughly the same answers:

“Would you favor or oppose a law that would allow homosexual couples to legally form civil unions, giving them some of the legal rights of married couples?”

          &nbsp Y   N

3/04  54  42

7/03  40  57

One reading: putting “marriage” squarely on the table makes “civil unions” look like the moderate position. But that wouldn’t matter if the underlying trend toward giving gays equal treatment weren’t so strong. I don’t know where that trend comes from, but it looks as if FMA isn’t a winning issue for Bush in the fall. (He was probably forced to take the stand he did by the threat of a Roy Moore splinter candidacy, but I now think the issue overall is going to cost him votes.)

More generally, as a matter of political analysis we ought to distinguish between cases (such as busing for school integration) where the courts try to force something on the voters that a strong majority really doesn’t want, and cases (such as the anti-miscegenation laws or, it now appears, sodomy laws) where the courts order something that the democratic process wouldn’t have producd, but which the voters are comfortable with once it’s established.

Footnote: Note that no one is seriously proposing that the anti-gay-rights amendment include a clause that would re-constitutionalize state-level sodomy laws. That suggests to me that the result in Lawrence v. Texas is now widely accepted, even by those who criticize the reasoning behind it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

2 thoughts on “What backlash?”

  1. A Matter of Equality

    Via The Right Christians and Mark A. Kleinman. Polls are showing more evidence that support for equal rights and protections for gay & lesbian couples is growing. From a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll "Would you favor or oppose a law that

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