Iowans Support Gay Marriage

A new poll that shows a majority of Iowans support gay marriage is significant on many levels. First, it represents a substantial change over the past year. Comparable research at the time of the court decision showed clear public opposition. Since then, some early support for moves to overturn the law has softened, and now seems to have transformed into specific support for marriage equality. This is a substantial shift in little more than a year, but should not surprise: it is the same pattern seen earlier, elsewhere.  Those who are most vocal in their opposition to gay marriage are responding to an idea, a mental construct of how their idea of society will be “transformed”. However, experiencing the reality shows many people that life simply continues as normal, and their concerns evaporate. For others, they simply get used to the changed circumstances, and want the politicians to move on. Finally, the small businesses which have benefitted  from the boom in marriage tourism most certainly don’t want to lose their new business. So it is absolutely to be expected that Iowans should be increasing their support at a faster lick than the rest of the US.

The interesting part to me, is how will this play out politically? For years, conservative Republicans have routinely used gay rights, especially marriage, as a dog-whistle issue to rally the base.  That may no longer work for them. There have been a number of high profile Republicans over the past year or so who have distanced themselves from the anti-gay forces, or have even declared support for marriage equality. When I looked at the latest Gallup poll on increasing support for LGBT causes, I saw in it confirmation of this anecdotal evidence:  solid Republican opposition is softening, even as crucial independent support is growing.

In Florida, where research shows that most voters do not support the ban on gay adoption, the Rekers affair and high fees he claimed for his discredited “expert” testimony have suddenly become an issue in the governor’s race. In Iowa, there have been high profile attempts to use gay marriage as an attempt to unseat Democratic state legislators. The poll evidence suggests the possibility that this could back fire on them. In California, heavy spending Republican candidates have tacked to the right on conservative issues, including marriage, to garner support in the Republican primaries for governor and senator- but now appear to be trailing the Democrats Brown and Boxer in the general. In numerous primaries around the country, tea-party activists are unseating more moderate Republicans, but may not be able to win the crucial centre ground in November. As far as I can tell, there is not a single state this fall with a ballot initiative to restrict gay rights. When last was that the case? In the opposite direction, openly gay, lesbian and trans candidates have been winning local and low key state-wide elections in increasing numbers, right across the country, including mayoral races in Texas Florida, North Carolina and New Mexico – not the obvious hotbeds of gay activism. The electoral tide is clearly turning.

All of which leaves me wondering: could 2010  become the year when anti-gay rhetoric becomes a vote loser for the Republicans? And 2012 the year that ballot initiatives begin to promote equality?

In the past 14 months, the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended that the state legalize medical marijuana. Now, a new NewsChannel 8 poll shows that a majority of Iowans support both ideas.

The survey found that 53 percent of those polled said they favor marriage rights for same-sex couples and that 41 percent are opposed.

Opponents of same-sex marriage put candidates on notice this week, delivering a petition to the statehouse that they said makes clear that the issue will be on the minds of voters.

“When folks go to the polls next week and then in November, they will in fact support candidates who understand their Constitution and who will defend marriage,” said Bryan English of the Iowa Family Police Center.

Except, Mr English –  the research evidence is against you.

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