Marriage equality has been the law in Massachusetts for a little more than seven years. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court made the initial decision to legalize it, and various attempts to overturn that by amending the state constitution failed. Republican hopes to make gains in the state legislature by campaigning against gay marriage came to nothing. Five states and the District of Columbia have followed suit. And this is what public opinion looks like after a little more than seven years of marriage equality in Massachusetts:
Public Policy Polling (PDF). 9/16-18. Massachusetts voters. MoE ±3.5%.
Q: Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal?
Not sure: 10
Q: Which of the following best describes your opinion on gay marriage: gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, or gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry, or there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship?
Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry: 56
Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry: 30
There should be no recognition of a gay couple’s relationship: 12
Not sure: 2
Q: Has the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts had a positive or negative impact on your life, or has it not had any impact at all?
Positive impact: 18
Negative impact: 15
No impact at all: 67
That’s a solid majority in favor of marriage, and an overwhelming majority in favor of some legal recognition. In January, a national poll by PPP found a near-even split, with 34 percent supporting marriage, 31 percent civil unions, and 33 percent neither. The contrast is huge, and I look at it and think “I love my home state.”
But that 67 percent who say that it has no impact on their lives that gays and lesbians are allowed to legally marry who they choose may be the most important number here. In the end, it turns out that unless you are gay, or a passionate advocate for equality, or a passionate advocate for inequality, it just doesn’t change your life if other people can marry the ones they love. And sometimes it’s actually a good thing for people to say, en masse, “Hey, this doesn’t even affect my life directly. Maybe I shouldn’t oppose it.”
We’ve a ways to go. But if the 12 percent opposed to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships and the 15 percent who think (erroneously) that marriage equality has had a negative impact on their own lives are the dead-enders who will cling to their bigotry no matter what, that leaves around 25 percent who aren’t yet in favor of gay marriage but aren’t necessarily clinging to hate. Maybe another seven years will help them see reason?