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Majority of Virginians and Arizonans support marriage equality

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By Scottie Thomaston

Arizona state seal
Arizona state seal

The people of the state of Virginia are now joining the ranks of those who support marriage equality (most recently, majority support was found in Michigan, and in Nevada in February.) The recent polls seem to match the overall trend reported by Pew Research and Gallup: Americans in all age groups increasingly support same-sex marriage.

Metro Weekly has the report on the Washington Post‘s Virginia poll:

A Washington Post poll of Virginians regarding various social issues shows that a majority of Virginians believe same-sex marriage should be legal, a finding that challenges other polls in recent years showing that marriage equality still lacks broad support across the commonwealth.

According to the Post poll, 56 percent of Virginia adults believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married, while 34 percent think it should be illegal. Ten percent expressed no opinion. Among registered voters, those who thought it should be legal led by a similar margin, 56 to 33 percent.

The poll was conducted by telephone from April 29 to May 2 among a random sample of 1,000 adults in Virginia, including 887 registered voters and users of both conventional and cellular phones. Among registered voters, the poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

According to the poll results, independents and Democrats are showing majority support (which is the same in most recent polls on the issue) but Republicans are not. Women and non-whites support marriage equality more strongly than men and whites. And 72 per cent of 18-29 year olds in the state support marriage equality, but only 22 per cent in that age group are in the opposition.

Metro Weekly interviewed the executive director of Equality Virginia about the poll:

In an interview with Metro Weekly, James Parrish, the executive director of the nonpartisan LGBT rights organization Equality Virginia called the results of the Post poll “exciting to see.”

“It’s definitely nice to see, but it’s something we expected,” Parrish said. “Support in Virginia mirrors what’s going on nationally. Hopefully, this will set Virginia up to be able to remove the marriage amendment and allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.”

Parrish noted that the strongest movement in support for LGBT rights has occurred among Republicans. He said that polling by Equality Virginia has also seen that shift among Republicans in its own polling, which explains why a bill supporting workplace nondiscrimination protections in state employment garnered stronger-than-usal support from Republicans this past legislative session. That measure passed the state Senate 24-16 before being killed in committee by members of the House of Delegates.

The Advocate also notes, via a Talking Points Memo report, that Arizona voters (who banned same-sex marriage by voter initiative in 2008) now support marriage equality by a fairly strong margin:

Even Arizona, where the legislature is currently considering a bill that would forbid transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, is feeling the push toward marriage equality. Although Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2008, 55% of voters now favor marriage equality, according to a Rocky Mountain Poll released Wednesday and published at TalkingPointsMemo. Opposition to the freedom to marry among registered voters is just 35%, according to the poll. Support for marriage equality was high among women, Latinos, and voters under the age of 55. But even among voters older than 54, 46% support marriage equality, while 40% of the demographic is opposed.

TPM notes that support in the state transcends race, gender, and age:

Large majorities of women, Hispanics and voters under the age of 55 support same-sex nuptials. A plurality of voters over the age of 54 — 46 percent — supports gay marriage, while 40 percent of the group is opposed.

All of these states have LGBT-related lawsuits pending in federal court: Michigan’s anti-gay amendment is being challenged in federal court, while a case involving gay rights in Arizona is pending before the Supreme Court: Brewer v. Diaz involves an attempt by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to rescind domestic partnership benefits from same-sex state employees; she asked the Court to allow her to continue denying the benefits while the case is pending in the lower courts. No action has been taken in either case, and since the Court will decide cases involving Prop 8 and DOMA, no action is expected until June at the earliest.

In Virginia, the state’s attorney general has appealed a decision striking down the “crimes against nature” (sodomy) law as unconstitutional under 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas. The full appeals court declined to rehear the case.

In these states, it seems unlikely at best that marriage equality will be legalized without court action. Although voters are changing their minds, many of the state officials are socially conservative. But these lawsuits will probably proceed after the Supreme Court rules next month.


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