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Support for Gay Marriage Grows as Supreme Court Cases Near

Wedding photo in Times Square; photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Chris and Renee Wiley pose for a wedding photo last year in Times Square. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

A new national poll reflecting a major evolution on attitudes toward gay marriage highlights the continued cultural shifts on the issue one week before it faces a monumental test at the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post/ABC News survey released Monday found that 58 percent of Americans believe it should be legal for gay couples to get married. The survey showed 36 percent of respondents opposed making same-sex marriages legal.

The Post’s Greg Sargent breaks down in detail the dramatic splits on the issue among certain demographic groups: Voters ages 18-29 support legalizing gay marriage, 81 percent to 15 percent; non-white voters support legalizing gay marriage by 61-32; and college-educated whites support legalizing gay marriage by 65-29.

All of these constituencies have favored Democrats in national elections.

As David A. Fahrenthold and Jon Cohen note in their story, the survey “reflects a remarkable — and remarkably fast — turnabout in American public opinion on one of the most emotionally raw and politically divisive issues of the past decade.”

It also found “a broader shift in American attitudes about homosexuality,” they write. “Two decades ago, fewer than half of all Americans said being gay was an identity people are born with, not a choice; today, a sizable majority, 62 percent, says so.”

Consider that a decade ago, strategists with former President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign helped the party plot state-by-state marriage votes they knew would boost the Republican’s chances at securing a second term. They worked with state parties to make sure efforts to ban gay marriage were on 2004 ballots, which brought out evangelical voters and others who overwhelmingly backed Bush. That strategy wouldn’t work today.

Ten years ago, Virginia lawmakers hosted a major event around the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education. They stood on the steps of the portico and apologized on behalf of the commonwealth’s forefathers for segregating schools and for the “Massive Resistance” movement in Virginia attempting to thwart desegregation.

Some Democratic lawmakers were joined by the first openly gay delegate to implore their colleagues to remember the moment. They compared the issue to the civil rights movement and argued that by banning marriage at the state level they might be setting up another apology decades in the future.

Those comments were seen as dramatic at the time, and the majority of the country opposed gay marriage and overwhelmingly backed state efforts to enshrine marriage as between a man and a woman. There have been all sorts of studies examining the issue, but over the years the nation has seen a slow shift in the other direction, as evidenced in Monday’s Post poll.

With just one week until the Supreme Court hears arguments in two major cases addressing gay rights — California’s Prop 8 law and the Defense of Marriage Act — more and more public figures are starting to declare their support for gays having the same marriage rights as everyone else.

There were all the Republicans who signed amicus briefs in favor of same-sex marriage, plus corporations coming forward to say it’s a recruitment issue that could boost the economy.

Former President Bill Clinton penned an op-ed earlier this month explaining why he no longer agrees with the Defense of Marriage Act he signed into law in 1996. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman declared his position changed last week, telling his constituents that he evolved after his son came out to him.

And on Monday, in a possible overture for a 2016 presidential bid, Hillary Clinton announced in a long web video why she supports gay marriage.

She outlined what she had seen abroad as secretary of state and said she believes it is “in our DNA” to “champion the freedom and dignity of every human being.”

“I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law embedded in a broader effort to advance equality and opportunity for LGBT Americans and all Americans,” Clinton said. She even acknowledged marriage can be challenging.

On his new political blog, David Catanese gets reaction to Clinton’s announcement from hotshots in early presidential primary states. When she ran in 2008, Clinton had wide support in the gay community but only backed civil unions. Early-state reaction was generally positive, but it’s important to note she’s actually one of the last possible contenders to embrace same-sex marriage. Vice President Joe Biden, and Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Martin O’Malley of Maryland were out front on the issue last year.

Watch Clinton’s video here or below:

The release of the Post poll on this major cultural issue came as the Republican National Committee released a forensic examination of its challenges connecting with younger and minority voters, as previewed here. (The report, which you can read in full here, actually makes no mention of marriage despite some officials acknowledging the party is losing younger voters on the issue.)

Politics desk assistant Simone Pathe was at the RNC’s Washington rollout and filed this report looking at the blueprint for the GOP’s path forward.

On the NewsHour, Gwen Ifill talked with Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report and Susan Page of USA Today about the splits among Republicans and how they can work to win the next national election.

Watch the segment here or below:



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Watch the discussion here or below.


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Terence Burlij, politics desk assistant Simone Pathe and Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.

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