Tuesday, September 23, 2003

"Extra, Extra! Read All About It!! Americans Oppose Gay Marriages
To Be Legalized Soon! Extra, Extra . . . ."

Mr. Andrew Sullivan* takes heart from a recent ABC News poll which, he contends, sounds the death knell for a Constitutional amendment recognizing the fact that marriages can only exist between men and women. Both he and ABC News are touting the poll as a really honest look, because it supposedly doesn't "conflate" issues like earlier polls that lumped the advisability of an amendment into questions about homosexual marriages. Fair enough, I suppose, but still Mr. Sullivan and ABC end up with some inaccuracies of their own.

The ABC poll asked "Do you think it should be legal or illegal for homosexual couples to get married?" That question, however, was preceded by this one:
"Do you think homosexual couples should or should not be allowed to form legally recognized civil unions, giving them the legal rights of married couples in areas such as health insurance, inheritance and pension coverage"?
I'm sure it was entirely unintentional, but the poll was priming respondents to answer as though marriage was a civil union that gives people legal rights to health insurance, inheritance, and pensions. Why didn't ABC's list of "rights" include having and raising children? Even then, out of a 92% opinion rate (7% had no opinion), only 37% favored gay marriage. If 92 people are going to vote yes or no to "X," and only 37 of them vote yes, the "nays" do something which trained pollsters call "win."

Mr. Sullivan also takes comfort in the fact that 60% of the "nay" respondents think it's "not worth it" to have a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as being possible only between men and women. Now some of these respondents live in states where finding a constitutional right to gay marriage is harder than finding an open liquor store on Sunday. And I also wonder what the overall response rate might have been to something like this question:
"Do you think your state should be required by law to give homosexuals who live in your state, but who go to another state for a few days to have a wedding ceremony, the rights of lawfully-married couples?"
This refers to what's called the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution, wherein the legal actions of one state (like marriages) must be honored by another. There are exceptions (no state has to recognize judgments in lawsuits for unpaid whorehouse bills in Nevada), but whether those exceptions apply to gay marriage depends on whether judges think the "full faith and credit" clause extends to them. ABC was very conscientious to word its questions to, as it says, "invit[e] consideration of the amendment process." I guess ABC conscientiousness didn't extend to inviting consideration of other constitutional issues. I wonder why.

Another interesting thing about the ABC poll is that among persons eighteen to thirty-four, who may be fairly said to have been most relentlessly and recently subjected to the tolerance message of public education and hip media, 46% still think gay marriage ought to be illegal. Moreover, 45% of the Democrats responding (and 47% of Independents) also agreed that gay marriages ought to be illegal. If a pollster were to describe these results to Ted Kennedy, he might say something like, "don't look down, Ted, because the chair you're standin' on has only got two legs."

Even more interesting is that responses to the "legal/illegal" questions were evenly split among single people (48% legal, 47% illegal) but amazingly lopsided among married people (28% legal, 63% illegal). One easily associates "gay bashing" and "hate crimes"** with some kind of folks, but "married people" just doesn't fit into the list of usual suspects. What do married men and women know that the single people don't? Maybe FoxNews will have the guts to ask them.

Still and all, I don't think Mr. Sullivan's confidence is misplaced. The Republican Party will soon realize that it can simultaneously scream bloody murder over gay marriage while crying crocodile tears about being unable to get an amendment (or a judge) through the Senate, all while a guerilla legal war in state and federal courts ends up legalizing gay marriage across the country. The Republicans have used a similar dodge on the abortion issue for the past quarter-century; they've milked four presidential victories, as well as control of the House and Senate, out of what the Left (for some strange reason) calls "the easily led" Christian voter. The Republican Party will scream bloody murder about gay marriage and get what it really wants, a gust under its wings for the next election cycle, and then it's back to crocodile tears about how terribly awfully impossible it is to have principles that mean something.

Perhaps it's meet that Mr. Sullivan and I expect a similar outcome, since we're somewhat alike. We're both Catholic, of course, but that's not the similarity I had in mind. Mr. Sullivan, you see, is a homosexual. I'm a pro-life Catholic*** who thinks Church teaching ought to shape our laws on marriage and abortion. That makes me the Republican version of a homosexual -- a captive, easily-led constituent, predictably marking up the "R" column on my ballot because I'm realistic, and can't see any alternative.

*I use the honorific simply because Mr. Sullivan and I have never met, and I like to be polite.

**Anticipating a misunderstanding, I put those terms in quotes because "gay bashing" is often used to describe opposing legal homosexual unions, and because "hate crime" is often used for regarding the Bible as something more than a cultural anthropologist's primary source material.

***I haven't had occasion to research Mr. Sullivan's position on abortion, and this isn't meant to suggest that I know what it is.

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