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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Gay Marriage “Inevitable”

Lou DiNatale, senior fellow at UMB’s McCormack Institute for Policy Research, says that state voters are evenly split on the issue of gay marriage, and that a recent constitutional amendment may not get approved by voters. Part of a broad survey on voters’ habits and the upcoming elections showcased in last week’s media conference, the results on the gay marriage issue received broad attention in the national media when the poll was released.

In response to the growing debate between civil rights advocacy groups and Christian conservative contingents, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on November 18 of last year that same-sex marriages are allowed under the state’s constitution.

In response, the Statehouse called a constitutional convention to discuss amendments to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. In February, the state legislature voted down three such proposals, two of which provided for civil unions granting same-sex couples the same legal benefits provided by marriage without technically calling them married.

After a lot of debate and another constitutional convention, on March 29 a compromise amendment affording only civil unions to same-sex couples passed by six votes. The amendment will be voted on by Massachusetts residents in two years.

DiNatale’s research group asked 463 registered voters to first state whether they supported or opposed the amendment. This question elicited an evenly divided response, with 47% of those polled supporting the amendment and 47% opposing it.

Those polled were also asked to specify whether they support gay marriage, oppose gay marriage but support civil unions, oppose any marriage rights for gays or don’t care about the issue. Given those choices, 40% supported outright gay marriage, 28% supported civil unions, 17% opposed both and 11% had no opinion.

In comments made to the Boston Globe last week, DiNatale said, “I would argue that these poll findings show that any amendment that gets to the ballot is going to have some difficulty getting a majority of voters behind it.” He clarified this statement to the The Mass Media, saying those voters who don’t care about gay marriage, “will be the key to killing all amendments, no matter what they are, thereby making gay marriage inevitable.” DiNatale continued, “If they don’t care about it, they’re not going to fight very long over it and my guess is they’ll want to move on to things like the economy, jobs, healthcare, etc., which means it will be difficult for the activists, particularly on the conservative side, to keep the issue hot.”

Elucidating further his belief that the issue’s time in the spotlight may have passed, DiNatale explained, “I think [the state legislature] thought they did a great job and that the compromise was a good thing. It may have been intellectually, and in fact it may be where most people are. This is to say you probably could get a majority to sustain the vote. Forty-seven percent were in support of the amendment. Then again, I don’t think any amendment is going to ensure a debate over this next year, this may not even pass into the congress next year. So this issue is hot, but it’s heading for some kind of resolution, and I think the outcome may be the [Massachusetts Supreme Court’s] ruling standing.”