Polls steady as marriage amendment vote looms

By |2018-01-15T16:05:43-05:00May 18th, 2006|News|

By Bob Roehr

American attitudes toward gays in general continue to improve, but not when it comes to marriage, according to the latest polling numbers released by the Human Rights Campaign in a May 8 conference call with reporters. The Senate is scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage during the first week of June.
A majority of voters (53 percent) support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, while a minority (43 percent) opposes it. The findings were gleaned from an in-depth national telephone survey of 802 registered voters conducted April 10-13 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates.
“We have not seen much of a change in terms of people’s attitudes toward same-sex marriage, or a Federal Marriage Amendment” over the last two years, said Jay Campbell, who analyzed the polling data. The change that has occurred has been toward the middle, with less opposition to same-sex marriage and an increase in support for civil unions.
63 percent said they had concerns about amending the Constitution, regardless of their position on gay marriage. Furthermore, the amendment “is not a priority for any group of voters anywhere in the country.”
Campbell said those polled were offered a laundry list of issues and could indicate that some or all of the issues were “important” to them. Affordable health care and the war in Iraq were on most voters’ minds. A constitutional amendment to prohibit burning the American flag came in at 43 percent, while the marriage amendment pulled only 35 percent, dead last in terms of the percentage of voters who deemed it “important” to them.
Republican attempts to use this as a political ploy “doesn’t seem to be working in terms of distracting the American public from what the real problems are,” Campbell said.
Campbell also saw the overall political environment for gays and lesbians as improving “quite a bit” over the last three years. Forty percent thought “making sure gays and lesbians receive the same rights and protections under the law as other Americans” was very important in July 2003. That number increased to 51 percent in the latest poll.
The importance of “protecting traditional family values from the gay lifestyle” edged downward from 57 percent to 48 percent over that same time period. Campbell called these “pretty important changes” over such a relatively brief period of time.
HRC’s Political Director Samantha Smoot said the 2004 vote on the marriage amendment was a technical one on whether to close off debate on the floor of the Senate. It lost 50 to 48; with 60 votes required for cloture. Passing the amendment itself requires 67 votes.
The composition of the Senate has changed since then and it’s likely that 52 Senators would now vote to close off debate.
“We are tremendously concerned because it is an election year” and Republicans are looking to change the national debate, Smoot said. She outlined the activities that HRC is taking to mobilize community support against the amendment.
Last time around only a handful of Senators rose to speak against the amendment, and most of them spoke of technical reasons to oppose it rather than actively supporting the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.
Smoot said they are working with congressional offices “to make sure they have all of the tools that they need to make affirmative arguments about why writing discrimination into the Constitution is bad politics. We are hopeful that we will see some strong voices during this debate.”
“We except that the DNC is going to show leadership within their own ranks in terms of getting information and messaging out to state party leaders and local candidates … and in Washington.”
More Senators are opposed to the substance of amending the Constitution than to the question of cutting off debate. But when pressed as to whether HRC would seek to win a vote on procedure to block a vote on the substance, or win a vote on the amendment itself, Smoot said, “It’s a little too early to tell.”

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.