Today’s Washington Post:
Virginians are closely divided over whether gay marriage should be legal, according to a new Washington Post poll, a striking result in a state that overwhelmingly agreed to amend its constitution to ban gay marriage just five years ago.
Forty-seven percent of Virginians say gay couples should be allowed to legally wed, and 43 percent are opposed, according to the poll. Fifty-five percent of Virginians say gay couples should be able to legally adopt children.
The results mirror a dramatic and rapid shift in national public opinion about gay rights in recent years.
Dramatic indeed. Here are the national trendlines, via Nate Silver:
Silver earlier projected a timeline for the point at which an anti-marriage amendment would fail in each state, putting Virginia at the year 2015. Note that this model does not predict the year in which Virginia’s amendment will actually be overturned, only the year in which it would be overturned if it were on the ballot. The process for such a ballot initiative complicates things considerably. Note also that the Washington Post poll was not of likely voters, and that voting behavior is not for the most part driven by this issue. The result is a sizable (and quickly increasing) gap between the position of the public and that of policymakers.
For these reasons, I would have no expectation that the movement toward fairness and common sense among Virginians will translate anytime soon into legislating equality. Until the roughly 28% represented by the Virginia (Some) Families Foundation are no longer permitted a role in making public policy far beyond what their numbers justify, our laws will remain out of step with the wishes of the public. There is no question that this will change, if only through attrition; the most dramatic shift in opinion is among those 18-29, and those currently in high school are simply incredulous that this is even an issue. But it would sure be nice if we didn’t have to wait for that inevitability to unfold. If people grasped the fundamental importance of civil rights to every other issue that drives their voting behavior – to democracy itself – the embarrassing stain on our constitution could be dispatched much more quickly.