Americans growing more tolerant of gay marriage

After the sadness of California passing Proposition 8 banning gay marriage last year, there have been a couple of recent victories for civil rights campaigners in Vermont and Iowa. That motivated Nate Silver to work the numbers and ask when we might expect the rest of the US to reject a ban on gay marriage. The outcome is shown in the following diagram from The Map Scroll:

Rejection of ban on gay marriage

Rejection of ban on gay marriage

The regression that Silver used achieved an R-squared of 0.75, which is pretty incredible, and contains three variables:

  • The year in which the amendment was voted upon;
  • The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;
  • The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

The latter two make sense, since many religious peole interpret their religious text as prohibiting gay marriage. The first variable seems a strange one to be significant. I guess it’s possible that Americans are just becoming more liberal (that goes out to you, goonix), but the party registration data wasn’t significant which suggests otherwise. Are young Americans, who are usually more liberal, more likely to vote these days? I don’t know the numbers but I would guess not. Does anyone have a plausible explanation? I suppose the most convincing (and least falsifiable) one that I can think of would be that the entire US political spectrum has shifted, such that gay marriage is more acceptable to Republicans and Democrats alike.]

ht: Economix

  • “After the sadness of California passing Proposition 8 banning gay marriage last year”

    I was there when that happened – the advertising was TERRIBLE!!!

  • In what sense was it terrible? The way it portrayed gay couples?

  • @rauparaha

    Just saying how it degraded communities and causing diseases and stuff – and there was very little “civil rights” advertising on the other side as the gay community thought the yes vote was in the bag.

    With the election on at the same time there were many f’d up ads on – the US certainly has conspiracy theorists with money. And the election coverage over on Fox news was also very funny …

  • @Matt Nolan
    I found the Don’t Divorce Us video very moving. If any advertising is likely to persuade people, this is it.

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  • I am confident that we will repeal Proposition 8 in 2010; should we fail in 2010, however, we will be back in 2012. Should we fail again, we will be back again two years later; we will continue to press for the repeal of Proposition 8 until we succeed…

    One of our biggest mistakes was our assumption that we had the vote locked up. Another big mistake was our failure to address the concerns of non-white Californians, many of whom resented the comparison of our campaign for marriage equality with the civil rights struggle. (There are similarities between the two movements, but there are also differences, and by not addressing the latter, we gave cart blanche to the hard right to whip up homophobia in the black community.) Our advertising campaign was terrible, and we did not adequately refute claims by the hard right to the effect that churches would be forced to marry gay parishioners (against the will of the churches) unless Proposition 8 was passed (all we had to do was point out that this had not happened during the six month period prior to the election during which gay marriage was legal, nor had it happened in Massachusetts, where gay marriage has been legal for more than five years; furthermore, this scenario is constitutionally impermissible).

    In short, the burden fell on us to educate the public and to allay the fears of people who were unfamiliar with this issue. We failed to meet that burden, and the price for that failure is two more years of marriage inequality in the State of California.

    Recent legal and political developments have given us much to celebrate. We should not underestimate the significance of the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v. Brien, 07-1499 (April 3, 2009). The fact that this decision was unanimous, and the fact that it was so forcefully worded, should give pause to those who argue that this decision constituted impermissible “judicial tyranny”, or that this decision constituted “usurpation of the will of the people”. We should also be grateful for the fact that the Iowa state constitution cannot be amended by popular vote at the polls; it may only be amended following two consecutive readings of the proposed amendment by the state legislature, or by constitutional convention, making November 2012 the earliest possible time by which such an amendment can take effect. This gives us almost four years during which gay marriage will remain legal; four years during which we can demonstrate to people that gay marriage poses no threat to them or to their way of life. The leader of the state senate has indicated that he is not willing to pursue a constitutional amendment, and the governor is on record as opposing a state constitutional amendment.

    The decision by the Washington, DC District Council to recognize gay marriages performed out-of-state, in jurisdictions where gay marriage is legal, is also welcome news. Washington, DC joins the State of New York in recognizing gay marriages solemnized in other jurisdictions.

    But the cherry on the cake is undoubtedly our legislative victory in Vermont. Without any prompting by a state high court, the state legislature voted to legalize gay marriage. The hard right cannot claim that this outcome was forced on unwilling citizens by the judiciary. This victory was the result of the democratic process working, overwhelmingly, in our favor. Right-wing organizations are both terrified and angry – up until now, they have always been able to argue that Americans do not want gay marriage, and that this development is being imposed on the people by “unelected judges”. They can no longer play that card – the people, through their elected representatives, have spoken, and the people of Vermont voted in favor of gay marriage.

    Gay marriage will soon be legalized in New Hampshire and Maine. Slowly but inexorably, momentum is building. It is up to us to keep up the pressure…

    PHILIP CHANDLER

  • StephenR

    Interesting developments there, thanks Philip.

  • Graham

    I haven’t looked at the numbers, so I can’t say for sure, but I have a couple of guesses as to why the first condition is significant. For one thing it could be inversely related in that if an amendment was voted on later in one state then there is less general sentiment in that state against gay marriage and therefore it would be likely that they would repeal it sooner.

    A contradictory idea is that it takes a similar amount of time in each state between when an amendment was voted on and when it will be repealed, so those that introduced them later will only get around to repealing them later. I have to say I sort of doubt this as my assumption is that more conservative state probably introduced bans earlier and will be longer in repealing them. Still, it is interesting to consider what might influence these things.