Poll shows deep divisions on gay marriage

(AP Photo)

Barbara Von Aspern loves her daughter, “thinks the world” of the person her daughter intends to marry and believes the pair should have the same legal rights as anyone else. It pains her, but Von Aspern is going to skip their wedding. Her daughter, Von Aspern explains, is marrying another woman.

“We love them to death, and we love them without being judgmental,” the 62-year-old Chandler, Ariz., retiree said. “But the actual marriage I cannot agree with.”

It’s complicated, this question of legitimizing gay marriage. Americans are grappling with it from their homes to the halls of government in the shadow of a presidential election next year. The ambivalence is reflected in a new poll that shows the nation is passionate, conflicted and narrowly split on same-sex marriage.

Fifty-three percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed believe the government should give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex, about the same as last year, according to the nationwide telephone poll by The Associated Press and the National Constitution Center. Forty-four percent were opposed.

People are similarly conflicted over what, if anything, the government should do about the issue.

Support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage has shifted in recent years, from a narrow majority opposed in 2009 to narrow majority support now. Some of the shift stems from a generational divide, with the new poll showing a majority of Americans under age 65 in favor of legal recognition for same-sex marriages, and a majority of seniors opposed.

In some places, government has moved ahead while the nation debates. New York in July became the sixth state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage. Still, the issue played a part in the special election Tuesday to replace disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. Democrat David Weprin‘s support for gay marriage cost him support among the district’s Orthodox Jews, and he lost to Republican Bob Turner.

Also Tuesday, lawmakers in North Carolina, the only state in the Southeast that does not have language in its constitution banning gay marriage, voted to put the question on the 2012 ballot. Most Americans who live in states where gay marriage is not already legal say it is unlikely their state will pass such a law; just 20 percent think it is likely to become law in their state.

Americans also are conflicted on how to go about legalizing or outlawing gay marriage.

One option is banning gay marriage by constitutional amendment. About half of the poll’s respondents, 48 percent, said they would favor such an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Most who feel this way do so intensely. About 40 percent would strongly favor such a change. Forty-three percent said they would oppose such an amendment, and 8 percent were neutral, according to the poll.

Most — 55 percent — believe the issue should be handled at the state level, however, and opinions on how states should act are split. People are about evenly divided on whether their states should allow same-sex marriages — 42 percent favor that and 45 percent are opposed — and tilt in favor of state laws that allow gay couples to form civil unions — 47 percent in favor, 38 percent opposed and 13 percent neutral, according to the poll.

“The different moral standards in different areas, probably, are the biggest reason that same-sex marriages are an issue,” said Dale Shoemaker, 54, a military retiree from Boise, Idaho. If gay couples who want to get married live in a state that doesn’t allow it, they can move to one that does, he said.

Either way, gay couples “should have benefits,” Shoemaker said. “If they’re living together and cohabitating and are a couple, (they should have) the insurance and retirement and that type of thing, the monetary benefits.”

Nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) in the poll shared Shoemaker’s take when it comes to government benefits. They said same-sex couples should be entitled to the same legal benefits as married couples of the opposite sex. Forty percent felt the government should distinguish between them.

The poll did uncover some inequities. It suggests, for example, that opponents of same-sex marriage were far more apt to say that the issue is one of deep importance to them. Forty-four percent of those polled called it extremely or very important for them personally. Among those who favor legal marriage for gay couples, 32 percent viewed the issue as that important.

Von Aspern is an example of an American whose opposition to gay marriage is deep and abiding. It’s based on her religion — she is Mormon — and as such it overrode other considerations when it came to her daughter’s wedding.

“It was very difficult,” Von Aspern says. “We had to bring them to the house and hug them and love them and tell them these things and not let that keep us apart.”

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2 Responses to "Poll shows deep divisions on gay marriage"

  1. Sandune  September 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Why is this still an issue? Does it solve our debts? does it improve our academics? I do remember it being a part of President Bush’s campaign to add an Amendment banning same sex marriages. Why? He never explained it but it was added to the list that included a ban on death with dignity and abortions as well as signing up the churches for federal grants. The source of this exclusion of millions of Americans comes from the Christians who believe America is theirs to do with as they wish.

    Twelve years ago right here at CHB the fight was on trying to force all Americans into being Christians. Reader Rant went off the deep end threatening many of us who were not members of any church. Who lit the fuse under the Republicans who became a threat to our government known for individual freedoms? Could a combination of Limbaugh, Robertson and Murdock’s Fox news have convinced their audience to drop millions of Americans and place them in a category of unworthy leaders?

    The sleeping giant of enormous hatred for many Americans has finally destroyed our election system. The Christians are running the government and our Constitution is being rewritten as we argue about trivia.

    How many Americans can see the real enemy hiding behind a green curtain? How many have never picked up a book on the subject of 911 and how the dreaded V.P. Cheney managed to bring American values down to zero? Richard Clarke’s book did not get the attention that Cheney’s book did. Cheney had the White House behind him and Clarke lost his job.

    Every time we get close to having the individual states approve of gay marriages some lame Christian has to bring it up and the fight is on over and over. Pointing out that many of these trouble makers are themselves gay, serves no purpose. Having the gay community out of the closet should be enough to recognize them as individuals with enormous talent in many areas of the arts.

    I think there may be some states where sodomy is still against the law. Do these ignorant Christians not realize that heterosexuals have been making love in this fashion for years as a method of birth control. Europe has produced some wonderful writers who casually throw this out as as perfectly normal act.

    I remember reading books and watching movies where if I had had that much sex in a single year, I would have given birth to a dozen more kids. Birth control did not work for many years and many of us chose surgery to stop getting pregnant. It became a positive action for the gals to request the surgical removal of all moving parts. I am not the sort to break the law but I sold some jewelry for this surgery before Roe v Wade. My timing is always off.

    One Easter dinner party at my Grandmother’s home. It is a memorable dinner as it was the last one she made for us. I took over the family meals after that. My grandmother quoted from the bible and then put her hands in the form of a prayer and thanked God for birth control pills. We nearly fell off our chairs. She had just heard about them. She had gotten pregnant 13 times but only 5 survived. None of them were lost due to an abortion but for reasons we never knew and it was none of our damn business.

    We would read the journals of our ancestors who came across the prairie with the Mormons and many times the women would make up a cup of tea with some magic herb that would bring on a miscarriage just before the long trek took off for Utah. The tea stopped the women from getting pregnant and did not keep them from reproducing when they arrived. Women are always smarter than their men and nobody knew about the fancy tea. The tea was a gift from the American indians who had used it for years to keep their tribes from starving to death.

  2. Jon  September 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I think the person my brother married should have the same legal rights and responsibilities as any married person does.

    And she’s a very nice woman. She grew up in Germany, and speaks English better than I do.

    I hear your rant, Sandune. Hopefully more will.

    J.

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