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MARRIAGE DIGEST: A rise in civil unions support? Maybe not

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An apparent increase in the public support for same-sex civil unions may be due to the way the poll is structured, a Gallup poll editor believes.

In March a Gallup poll found that Americans supported same-sex civil unions by a margin of 54 to 42 percent — an increase in support of 14 points from last July when Americans opposed civil unions by a margin of 57 to 40 percent.

The March poll gained widespread media attention, including a USA Today story with the headline: “Civil unions gain support.”

But the increase may be attributable to the placement of the civil unions question, Senior Gallup Poll Editor David W. Moore says. If people are asked their opinion about civil unions before they are asked about same-sex “marriage,” they are more likely to say they don’t favor civil unions, he wrote in the March 23 edition of the Gallup Tuesday Briefing.

“Our theory was that in general, many people support gay civil unions as an alternative to gay marriages,” he wrote. “If people are asked first about gay civil unions, many might indicate their opposition even though they really oppose gay marriage more generally, and just don’t want the interviewer to think that their support for gay civil unions means support for gay marriage.

“But if respondents are asked first about gay marriage, and are able to indicate their opposition to that idea, then they might be more likely to say they support civil unions — implicitly as an alternative to gay marriage.”

A Pew Research Center poll from last October supports the theory. In that poll, half the people were asked the civil unions question first, the other half were asked the civil unions question second. Among those who were asked the civil unions question first, 55 percent opposed civil unions, 37 percent favored them. Support rose eight percentage points when the civil unions question was second: 45 percent supported them, 47 percent opposed them.

“The Gallup and Pew polls raise another question: Which measure of public opinion is the ‘real’ one?” Moore wrote. “The answer to this question may be unsatisfactory to most poll watchers: There is no one ‘real’ measure. Both measures provide insights into what the public is thinking.”

Polling on the issue of same-sex “marriage” has also been erratic, depending on the wording of the questions asked.

FIRST STEPS TAKEN — Town and city clerks in Massachusetts have been notified that they will be trained in early May to issue same-sex “marriage” licenses, The Boston Globe reported March 26. Barring action from the governor or the legislator, same-sex couples will be granted marriage licenses in mid-May because of a ruling by the state’s highest court.

The notice comes as state legislators prepare to resume their constitutional convention March 29.

THE FIRST DIVORCE? — Citing the Massachusetts Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision, a Massachusetts state judge has dissolved a Vermont same-sex civil union, the Associated Press reported.

Essex County Probate and Family Court Judge John Cronin cited Goodridge March 19 in ending the civil union of two homosexual men. The Goodridge decision ruled that same-sex couples could not be denied marriage licenses.

QUEBEC, TOO — The Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from two pro-family groups March 19, making Quebec the third province to legalize same-sex “marriage.” British Columbia and Ontario are the other two.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Catholic Civil Rights League had appealed a lower court ruling after the federal government dropped its appeal.

FAST TRACK IN OREGON — The Oregon Supreme Court may be preparing to hear oral argument on same-sex “marriage,” even though the case is still in the lower courts.

The Salem Statesman Journal reported March 25 that both sides in the dispute have agreed to fast track the case, meaning it could be decided by the Oregon Supreme Court months or years earlier than usually is the case. The newspaper reported that oral arguments could begin as early as April, although a date has not been set.

Conservatives in the state fear that the court will legalize same-sex “marriage” before voters are able to have a say. Oregon pro-family leaders are beginning a petition drive to put a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot this November. They have launched a website: www.defenseofmarriagecoalition.org.

STATE AMENDMENTS — Constitutional marriage amendments advanced in two states, failed in two states and came to a surprise ending in Kentucky in voting March 22-26.

In Kentucky, House Republicans, who support a state marriage amendment, staged a dramatic walkout after Democrats voted to limit debate and not consider GOP changes. Republicans wanted to vote on the version that had passed the Senate — a version that banned same-sex “marriage.” The House version did that, but also addressed a somewhat unrelated issue — limiting the judiciary’s power to impose mandates on the legislature, AP reported. Republicans said it was sabotage and would be struck down in court. Needing 60 votes, the amendment received 55 yes votes, 10 no votes.

In Kansas, a state constitutional marriage amendment failed in the Senate 17-16, 10 votes short of the required 27 votes. Six senators abstained, The Wichita Eagle reported. It had already passed the House. Supporters say they will try to push through another amendment before the session adjourns.

In Iowa, a resolution that would have called for a state marriage amendment failed in the Senate, 25-24.

In Minnesota, the House passed a marriage amendment by a vote of 88-42, sending it to the Senate.

In Tennessee, a marriage amendment passed a House committee by a 9-4 vote, moving it to another committee. But a bill that would have banned recognition of civil unions failed in a House subcommittee, 5-4.

While all four states have laws banning same-sex “marriage,” constitutional amendments are thought to be greater protections against court rulings. Massachusetts had no such amendment.
For more information about the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust