Earlier this week, Minnesota state Senator Scott Dribble said that the state’s Republicans had made a “grave, grave mistake”, in passing an amendment to put gay marriage to a vote, and that they would see that “soon”.
I don’t know quite how soon Sen Dribble had in mind, but supporting evidence has in fact come within days:
The Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll, released on Friday, shows that 55 percent of Minnesotans oppose inserting a ban on same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution. Only 39 percent favor such a ban, it found. The poll stands in stark contrast to a survey conducted by anti-gay marriage pollster Lawrence Research and paid for by the National Organization for Marriage, two groups that oppose rights for same-sex couples. A bill to propose such an amendment passed the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday.
The Minnesota Poll asked 806 Minnesotans, “Please tell me if you would favor or oppose amending the Minnesota constitution to ban same-sex marriage.”
Republicans favored a constitutional ban on gay marriage by a margin of 65 percent to 30 percent, while wealthier Minnesotans, those making $75,000 or more, also supported the amendment 50 percent to 46 percent. A plurality of Greater Minnesota respondents opposed the amendment at 49 percent to 42 percent.
Democrats and independents opposed the amendment with 71 percent and 57 percent respectively. And residents of the seven-county metro opposed it 59 percent to 36 percent.
Supporters of the vote amendment point to other evidence from an apparently conflicting earlier poll by the poll, by the National Organization for Marriage, Minnesota Family Council and Lawrence Research, which found that 56 percent of Minnesotans said only heterosexual marriages should be recognized in Minnesota and 42 percent said they supported same-sex marriage.
There are question marks about this poll: it was obviously partisan, and organisers have refused to release full technical details. These shortcomings though don’t bother me: the findings are irrelevant to the outcome of any vote, as it measures responses to same sex marriage – which is already banned by state law. It does not measure response to the question which will be put to voters, which concerns a plan to entrench this opposition in the state constitution – a very different question.
On face value, these two polls taken together would seem to suggest that Minnesota voters may remain opposed to marriage equality – but do not wish to meddle with the constitution. With the widespread recognition that support for LGBT legal rights is growing, and a parallel decline in the importance of gay marriage as an issue of importance even to those who oppose it, this split in sentiment is certainly plausible.
This may just be the best chance yet for American LGBT voters to give NOM and the opponents of marriage an electoral bloody nose.