Where do the American people stand on same-sex marriage? It may be difficult to determine accurately from opinion polls.
A national poll taken by the Washington Post and ABC News found that support for same-sex marriage is now at an all-time high nationwide. A Pew Research Center survey found that 1 in 7 Americans had changed their minds, going from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it.
But the Reuters Corporation released the results of an even bigger poll than the Post’s this week, which found that only 41 percent of America support same-sex marriage. The Reuters survey sampled 24,455 people while the Washington Post surveyed only 1,455.
Reuters’ findings are also significant given the fact that the corporate parent of the Reuters news agency, Thomson Reuters Corporation, is among the various groups that are calling for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be struck down.
The Family Research Council concludes, “If 41 percent was all the support Reuters could scrounge up for same-sex ‘marriage,’ then you know they exhausted every avenue trying to push that number higher—and couldn’t.”
The Family Research Council also found that the Post’s questions were “specifically structured to generate a more favorable response. When you frame the debate as the Post did—in criminal terms—Americans are far more wary of opposing same-sex marriage.”
The debate over same-sex marriage has been on the minds of Americans as the U.S. Supreme Court has been hearing oral arguments on marriage law. The Justices will rule in June on two cases: one challenging the legality of DOMA—which was enacted in 1996 under President Bill Clinton—and one challenging California’s ban on gay marriage (Proposition 8).
The Washington Post wrote that after Wednesday’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court appeared ready to strike down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act that withholds federal benefits from gay married couples “but it was a different story for Proposition 8 with Justices signaling that they may take a narrow approach to avoid setting a national precedent on the issue of same-sex marriage.” The Post wrote that the Justices were “as divided as the rest of the nation over same-sex marriage.”
A Reuters article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 27 said: “Overall, a majority of the Justices made it clear that, while they might not impede the recent movement among some states toward gay marriage, they were not willing to pave the way either.” Nine states recognize gay marriage, 30 states have constitutional amendments banning it, and the remaining 11 states are somewhere in the middle or undeclared.
The health of the family is on the minds of at least some of the Justices. During Tuesday’s oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether there was sufficient data to show that children are not adversely affected if raised by same-sex couples. Likewise, Justice Samuel Alito noted the concept of gay marriage is “newer than cellphones and the Internet.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ, recently spoke for the leadership of the Church on the well being of children:
“Most of the children born to unmarried mothers—58 percent—were born to couples who were cohabitating. Whatever we may say about these couples’ forgoing marriage, studies show that their children suffer significant comparative disadvantages. For children, the relative stability of marriage matters.
“We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.”1
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ (often mistakenly called Mormons) and the leaders of the Church believe the family is “ordained of God” and that “marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”2 In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles warned that “the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”
This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Paula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.