In a Washington Post – ABC News poll released on Friday, it was found that there exists stark divisions in American feelings regarding New York’s recent passage of marriage equality, with 50 percent of respondents reporting that they believe that the move was a positive development, and 46 percent responding that they viewed it as a negative development.
The poll, conducted between July 14-17, asked 1,001 adults the following question,
New York recently passed a law that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. Do you think this is a positive or negative development? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
Respondents overwhelmingly had strong feelings about the issue, with 32 percent of respondents strongly saying that New York’s passage of marriage equality was a positive development, while 36 percent strongly saying that it was a negative development. Contrast this with 18 percent saying that it was a somewhat positive development and 10 percent saying it was somewhat negative.
According to the Washington Post, the strong negative feelings towards New York’s marriage equality law is heavily influenced by ones religious views. They point out,
Church attendance is a deep fault line in reactions to the gay marriage law among all Americans, regardless of their particular affiliation. Fully two-thirds of adults who attend worship services at least once a week say the law is a negative development, while 73 percent of those who never attend church react positively to the legislation. Americans who attend church less regularly offer a tepid support; 54 percent react positively, 42 percent negatively.
This should come as no surprise to LGBT individuals, many of us who have grown up in religious households. Though there are some individuals, such as Kathy Baldock, who are attempting to work inside religious organizations to change their views regarding marriage equality and LGBT people; there are still many within religious organizations who cling to and perpetuate hateful stereotypes about gays and lesbians.
Though we may soon have legal equality — as this poll is just another confirmation in the growing support for LGBT rights — the final frontier of full equality is in our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.
Additionally, these trends regarding religious sentiment about marriage equality are very beneficial for the LGBT community to look at; as it allows us to focus our arguments on the specific issues that the public might have on marriage equality.
This poll, for example, shows us that we need to make the distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage more clear. Civil marriage includes governmental benefits, such as hospital visitation rights, tax credits, etc. Religious marriage on the other hand, is left to the individual religious organizations to perform. My synagogue, for example, will gladly perform a religious same-sex marriage, yet the Catholic church down the street would not, as they only feel that religious marriage is between a man and a woman.
This is why polls are beneficial and must be utilized effectively.
The LGBT community must not sit back (not saying that we are) and congratulate ourselves on a “job well done” with getting 50 percent positive support for the marriage equality bill in New York. Instead, we must recognize where the main opponents of marriage equality are, and tailor our arguments to reach their hearts and minds.
That is the REAL way that we will win true equality.