Support for marriage equality has soared to a new high, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday, as a majority of Americans also asserted that business owners should not be allowed to turn away gays and lesbians for religious reasons.
Amid a wave of proposals across the country that could open the door to broad discrimination, nearly 70% of respondents said they did not believe individuals with a religious objection to homosexuality should have legal cover to refuse services to gay and lesbian customers. Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed such a measure passed by the GOP-controlled legislature in her state. The bill came under heavy fire from gay rights advocates and major corporations. Other states quickly walked back similar bills, making them unlikely to pass this legislative session.
On the issue of marriage equality, 59% of respondents said they favored allowing gay and lesbian couples the right to wed – a record high measured in the poll – while 34% said they were opposed. Ten years ago, those numbers were almost exactly flipped, with 59% saying same-sex marriage should not be legal, and 38% saying it should.
Since 2004, the number of states where gay couples can marry has shot up from one to 17, plus Washington, D.C. Federal judges have also struck down bans against same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas, though they issued stays on their rulings pending appeal, which means same-sex marriages can’t be performed immediately. In each of those decisions, the judges found that denying gay couples the right to wed violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee to equal protection.
Fifty percent of respondents in the Washington Post-ABC News poll said they agreed, and that gay couples had a constitutional right to marry.
On other issues related to homosexuality, the poll found a more tolerant America. Nearly eight in 10 said gay people could raise children just as well as straight people, and 61% said they supported allowing gay couples the right to adopt. In some states, the adoption code is entwined with its marriage law, meaning gay couples barred from marrying cannot jointly adopt the child or children they’re raising together. This puts gay couples in a tough spot of having to choose which parent will have legal rights to the child, and which will be a legal stranger. Such laws are currently facing a federal challenge in Michigan.