February 2004
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Day February 6, 2004

Bush and a Constitutional Amendment Defining Marriage

At first, reading that Bush is interested in a constitutional amendment defining “marriage” as a union between a male and a female didn’t make any sense.  Why even mention this kind of issue prior to the election?  OK, Karl Rove might think that Bush needs a boost with southern and Religious Right voters to “lock in” their support for November, but I think there’s more going on here.

Demographics are working against the religious conservative community here.  Either they get an amendment (or state-by-state bans) done quickly, or it’s never going to happen.  Polls say only 38% of Americans favor an amendment, with 58% saying it should be a state-by-state issue.  At the same time, 55% of the population in general says they oppose same-sex marriages. 

But when you look at the detailed opinion polls, it seems clear to me that the Right’s support base is eroding away. 

Among voters aged 18-29, 55% believe that same-sex marriages should be legal, as opposed to 41% in the whole population.  Women believe such marriages should be legal in greater numbers than men, as you’d expect given that women in this country tend to be slightly more liberal than men. 

Among white protestants, it’s really the folks who self-identify as “evangelical” that oppose same-sex marriage:  17% are in favor, 81% oppose.  Among people who self-identify as not being “strongly” religious, 66% favor the legality of same-sex marriage, while only 26% oppose it. 

In other words, support for the legality of same-sex marriages is growing, and the rate of that growth is accelerating as folks who were born in the 1960’s and later become a larger and larger percentage of the population. 

So why push for an amendment now?  Because if they don’t get a constitutional amendment relatively soon, it’s never going to happen — the demographics don’t lie.