As Judge Vaughn Walker prepares to issue a verdict in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the landmark case against California’s Proposition 8, a new poll released last week by Public Religion Research Institute finds that a significant percentage of Californians, including people of faith across the California religious landscape, “say they have become increasingly supportive of gay rights over the last five years”:
— Only one-in-five (22%) Californians believe the passage of Proposition 8 was a “good thing” for the state.
— One-in-four Californians report that their views on rights for gay and lesbian people has become more supportive over the last five years, compared to only 8% who say they have become more opposed.
— If another vote similar to Proposition 8 were held tomorrow, a majority (51%) say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 45% who say they would vote to keep same sex marriage illegal.
— An overwhelming majority of Californians say they favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people from job discrimination and favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve only in the military (75% and 69% respectively). A majority (56%) favors adoption rights for same-sex couples.
Interestingly, the poll also found that “although concerns about the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage on children figured prominently in arguments by Proposition 8 supporters during the 2008 campaigns, few Californians view this as a concern.” Sixty percent actually “disagree that children would be more likely to experiment with homosexuality if same-sex marriage were legal.”
Californians were also more willing to support marriage if reassured that “no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples” and that the law “only provided for civil marriages like you get at city hall.” When these assurances were made, support for marriage increased by a 12 to 19 points. The poll also found a correlation between how Californians saw God and support for same-sex marriage. Californians who say they are extremely likely to identify with specific images of God as judge, father, or liberator are more likely than those who less strongly identify with these specific images of God to say they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal.” Similarly, Californians “who believe the Bible is a book written by men and is not the word of God” were more likely to support rights for gays and lesbians.
A Field Poll released a day before the Public Religion Research Institute survey also found that “if a vote was held on Proposition 8 now, 51 percent of all Californians would vote it down.”