Shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down its Goodridge ruling mandating that the Bay State recognize same-sex marriages, I recall reading that just as more Americans came to support interracial marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down it’s Loving decision in 1967, more would soon come to support same-sex marriage.
The polls don’t bear that assumption out, but they do, as I noticed last week show a dramatic uptick in support for same-sex civil unions. About the time Goodridge was handed down, a slight plurality of Americans opposed same-sex civil unions. Today, an overwhelming majority do — and that majority has been increasing (at least according to Pewe) at least since the Masachusetts decision.
Could it be that as the issue of same-sex marriage reached the national consciousness with the Massachusetts decision, people started thinking about the issue of same-sex relationships? And once they started thinking about it, a number of people, once skeptical that same-sex relationships merited recognition, began to change their mind. But, still they just didn’t wanted to call them marriages — which they wanted to reserve for different-sex couples.
This would explain the growing support for civil unions while support for same-sex marriage has effectively plateaued.
That decision thus changed the views of roughly one in eight Americans (a pretty substantial swing on a social issue in such a short time) on same-sex relationships. Not what some activists who favor the judicial approach anticipated, but real progress nonetheless.
That’s my working hypothesis for now. Much more on this in the coming week (hopefully).
*Yes, I know that Kander and Ebb had “married” instead of “marriage,” but the current title works far better with the theme of the post.