Conservatives Rally Grassroots as Opposition to Gay Marriage Declines

WASHINGTON – The majority of Americans still oppose gay marriages but the public backlash over such unions has receded since the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 overturned the state ban on homosexual marriage.

According to Pew Forum poll released on March 22, only 51 percent of Americans continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage – a figure that dropped from 63 percent just two years ago.

"Most Americans still oppose gay marriage, but the levels of opposition are down and the number of strong opponents are down," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "This has some implications for the midterm elections if this trend is maintained. There are gay marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states."

Opposition to gay marriage spiked in late 2003 following the controversial Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and played a decisive role in bringing values-voters to the polls during the 2004 presidential elections.

In 2004, pro-family supporters were able to pass ballot initiatives banning gay marriages across 11 states. However, they failed to push through a federal amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage as the intense focus on gay marriage declined in the last year.

The Pew Forum poll found that the number of people who say they strongly oppose gay marriage has dropped from 42 percent in early 2004 to 28 percent now. Strong opposition dropped sharply among senior citizens and republicans.

However, according to a separate poll released by pro-family groups earlier this month, values-voters are still interested in moral issues and want Republicans to do more to address their concerns.

“Our polling shows that many values voters are disappointed that the issues that brought them to the voting booth remain unaddressed by Congress,” Tony Perkins, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, said as the poll was released on March 17. “They are ready for action.”

The poll also found that 75 percent of evangelical respondents said they will likely vote for a candidate who pushes for values issues relating to marriage, abortion and gambling.

Sponsors of the poll, including FRC and conservative heavyweight Focus on the Family, are planning to rally thousands of their grass-roots supports to action ahead of the 2006 to 2008 elections.

The Pew Forum telephone poll of 1,405 adults was conducted March 8-12 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.