Conservatives say recent gay marriage polls, including the Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday, do not change their belief that most Americans favor marriage between a man and a woman.
The Washington Post-ABC poll shows a slim majority of Americans – 53 percent – support gay marriage. The poll adds fire to gay marriage advocates’ efforts to do away with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars same-sex marriage on a federal level and protects states from having to recognize such unions performed in other states.
Spanning nine years, the Post-ABC poll reveals that for the first time support for gay marriage has a clear lead over the opposition.
The poll asked respondents "Do you think it should be illegal or legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?"
From 2003 to 2007, a clear majority of respondents favored gay marriage to be illegal. But starting in 2008, the percentages of respondent who support versus those who oppose gay marriage began to be more similar. For the past two years, the percentage favoring same-sex marriage is about equal or higher than those who want such unions to be illegal.
But National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown disputed the poll's results. He faults the poll’s usage of the word "illegal," implying that same-sex couples would be arrested for entering into a gay marriage.
"Any pollster in the world would tell you that's a loaded question," states Brown.
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, says the question was stacked in favor of gay marriage proponents.
As a result, Sprigg says, "I am skeptical that this means that a majority supports same-sex marriage in America."
However, the Human Right Campaign asserts the validity of the poll, saying the results match a recent poll of their own.
The HRC poll released this week finds that 51 percent of respondents oppose DOMA. Their poll also shows the majority of respondents favor social security benefits, federal employee health insurance and joint income tax filings for same-sex couples.
These findings have fueled gay marriage proponents in the U.S. House and the Senate to introduce bills to repeal DOMA, passed in 1996 under President Bill Clinton.
Additionally, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice in February not to defend DOMA, charging that the law does not stand up under scrutiny. Republican House speaker John Boehner, however, has vowed to organize a bipartisan effort in the House to defend DOMA.
Regarding the recent polls favoring gay marriage, Brown calls them "ridiculous.” He emphasizes that state referendums that protect traditional marriage have been approved in all of 31 states where they were introduced.
Of the 31 states, 29 now have laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Additionally, Brown pointed to the recent failure of gay marriage legislation in Maryland as proof that gay marriage majorities in poll mean nothing.
Gay marriage proponents in the Maryland Senate withdrew their bill for fear that they did not have enough votes.
"We're winning everywhere we go, and we just won in Maryland, a very blue state," highlights Brown.
As result, Brown confidently asserts, "The facts do support that the majority of American still prefer marriage between a man and woman."