With the Supreme Court due to rule on two cases seeking the redefinition of marriage next week, the media has been reporting widely on polls that claim a majority of Americans now support such a redefinition to include homosexual couples. The implication left by some of these stories is that a majority would therefore be happy to have the Supreme Court rule that the U.S. Constitution requires changing the definition of marriage and forbids any state from defining it as the union of a man and a woman.
One national poll released two weeks ago proves, through an analysis of its findings, that this is not true. Here are the two questions on marriage asked in a poll taken by Selzer & Company for Bloomberg News between May 31 and June 3:
The Supreme Court may also decide on the constitutionality of a prohibition on gay marriage inCalifornia. Do you support or oppose allowing same-sex couples to get married?
Do you think there should be a national law allowing same-sex marriage, or should it be state-by-state? (Asked of those who support allowing same-sex couples to get married; n=506.)
The question about “a national law allowing same-sex marriage” is an awkward and oddly-worded one. The redefinition of marriage in all fifty states is hardly “inevitable,” as its advocates like to claim. But if it ever does become a reality, it will be because a) the Supreme Court orders it; b) the states individually adopt it; or c) the Constitution is amended to require it. But none of these involves Congress passing “a national law” (that is, a statute) to require it, since the statutory regulation of marriage has always been the responsibility of the states. (The federal Defense of Marriage Act only regulates the definition of marriage under federal law—it has no control over state marriage laws.)
Nevertheless, if we treat a possible Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. Constitution requires recognition of same-sex “marriages” as “a national law allowing same-sex marriage,” then the percent favoring that outcome is only 61% of the 52% who support redefining marriage at all. That works out to only 32% of the total sample—in contrast to the 60% who either oppose redefining marriage at all (41%) or support doing it state by state (52% X 37% = 19%).
So if the Supreme Court does force a redefinition of marriage on every state next week, they will be doing so not as a reflection of public opinion, but in defiance of it.