Same-sex marriage gaining favour in US – March 25, 2013

While opposition to same-sex marriage appears to be growing in New Zealand, several surveys in the United States show public opinion is surprisingly heading in the other direction.

A recent Herald DigiPoll survey showed that 48 percent of the New Zealanders polled said marriage should remain between a man and a woman, showing an increase of 7.5 percentage points from a poll last June.

Same-sex marriage campaigners have blamed scaremongering by religious groups for the significant increase, and opponents say people are waking up to the negative social effects of gay marriage. Either way, public opposition has grown significantly since the law change to legalise it came before Parliament.

However, the results of three separate United States polls show support for same-sex marriage is on the rise in the traditionally more conservative nation – contrasting notably with public opinion here in New Zealand.

A national survey done by the Pew Research Centre showed 14 percent of all Americans have changed their minds on the issue over the last decade, with 49 percent now in favour of same-sex marriage and 44 percent opposed.

The rise marks one of the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue in the United State over the 10-year period.

According to the results of a CNN/ORC International survey, 57 percent said a member of their family or someone close to them was gay or lesbian – an increase of 12 points since 2007.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage has risen by almost the same amount in the same time frame – from 40 percent in 2007 to 53 percent today – suggesting that “rise in support for gay marriage is due in part to the rising number of Americans who have become aware that someone close to them is gay”.

Holland said some people had recently taken to calling the change in opinion the “Rob Portman effect,” after the Republican senator from Ohio who learned that his son is gay and changed his hard-line position on gay marriage as a result. Portman announced the news in an interview with CNN.

A poll carried out in Ohio also indicated that the public had switched sides on the same-sex marriage debate, nine years after banning it.

The results of the poll, released yesterday, showed that 54 percent of Ohioans now support a new amendment which would repeal the ban and allow “two consenting adults to marry, regardless of their gender,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Head of the firm that conducted the poll, Martin D Saperstein, attributed the rise in support to the number of young people who support gay marriage reaching voting age.

“Part of that comes as the media make gay people look more common,” he told The Columbus Dispatch.

New Zealand’s Marriage Amendment Bill is expected to return to Parliament tomorrow for the committee stages after easily passing its second reading by 77 votes to 44. It could become law next month.