February 8, 2010 at 9:22 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Majority backs gay marriage, ballot measure in poll

A Washington Post poll published Sunday shows that 56 percent of adult D.C. residents surveyed favor legalizing same-sex marriage in the city compared to 35 percent who said they oppose it, with 9 percent saying they had no opinion.

But the same poll also found that 59 percent of residents surveyed favor putting the issue to a public vote in a ballot measure. The poll found that 37 percent oppose bringing the issue to a citywide vote.

The poll also identified significant differences on the same-sex marriage issue along racial lines. But the opposition to gay nuptials by blacks doesn’t appear to be as strong as local gay marriage opponents have predicted.

An overwhelming 83 percent of whites responding to the poll said they favor legalizing same-sex marriage, while 12 percent oppose it. A bare majority of 51 percent of blacks said they oppose legalizing gay marriage in the District; 37 percent polled said they support it.

According to the survey, 4 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks said they had no opinion on the issue.

Although the poll’s finding that an overall majority of 56 percent support legalized same-sex marriage at this time, LGBT activists familiar with ballot measures on the issue in other states could view the D.C. poll results with caution. In a number of states, including California, voter support for same-sex marriage dropped sharply following well funded and what LGBT activists called highly negative campaigns waged by same-sex marriage opponents.

Voter initiatives or referenda seeking to prohibit same-sex marriage have won in every state where they’ve been placed on the ballot.

In D.C., a 1978 law barring ballot measures that would result in discrimination against minorities protected by the city’s Human Rights Act has so far prevented local opponents of same-sex marriage from putting the issue up for a public vote. The opponents have vowed to continue to challenge city rulings against a marriage ballot measure in court.

The Post poll shows that white and black voters differ sharply over whether to bring the gay marriage question to a public vote. Among blacks, 70 percent responding to the poll favor holding a citywide vote on the issue, while 25 percent say a ballot measure should not be held. Six percent had no opinion.

Among whites, 58 percent opposed bringing the gay marriage issue to a public vote; 39 percent favored such a vote. Three percent had no opinion.

The Post’s poll included responses from 1,135 adults reached by either landline or cell phone during Jan. 24-28. The paper says the poll has a 3 percent margin of error.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Well, imagine that. We DC residents overwhelmingly elected an unabashedly liberal city council, most of whom have always been strongly supportive of gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular, and they voted overwhelmingly (11-2) to allow gay couples to marry, and the mayor we overwhelmingly elected signed it into law. But it’s nice to have confirmation that our DC Council and mayor aren’t so out-of-touch with their constituents as people like Harry Jackson and his Republicans friends in Congress who want to force a referendum on us would have everybody believe. What they call an “out-of-control city council” is largely representative of the city, but apparently they don’t believe in the principles of representative democracy as set out in the U.S. Constitution and D.C. charter. As such, the people make their will heard through their representatives, and that is what has happened here in DC.

    Our ELECTED DC Council and our ELECTED mayor have spoken, and in doing so they are doing the precise job we elected them to do. But the opponents of same-sex marriage would have us believe they are doing it in the name of democracy–“the people have a right to be heard” (and apparently they weren’t “heard” when they went out and voted in the last election???)–but having lost in every legal venue in the District, they are turning to Congress to get their way. They apparently don’t see the irony that having Congress–none of whom ANY of us DC residents ever had a chance to vote for–step in to overrule our ELECTED representatives and mayor and tell us what to do is the exact opposite of democracy. And to do what? To allow the civil rights of a minority to be put to a vote by the majority. Shame on all of them, they’ve helped put the last nail in the coffin of the civil rights movement.

    Unfortunately this won’t stop the opponents of same-sex marriage. If the majority were much larger it might make a difference but as it stands now don’t count on the anti-marriage forces singing a different tune after this poll–if anything it will embolden them because now they can taunt us, “what are you so afraid of?” 56% is a pretty strong majority but not invulnerable, especially if they bring in millions of dollars from outside groups and use slimy fear-mongering tactics as happened in both Maine and California–two other states where larger majorities than polls suggested ultimately voted to overturn same-sex marriage.

    Having lost in both the courts (where they railed against “unelected judges” and “judicial tyranny” and “legislating from the bench”) and the (elected!) legislature (DC’s “out-of-touch City Council”), the anti-marriage side claims to be respecting the “will of the people” in putting same-sex marriage up for a popular vote; in reality all they want is to outlaw same-sex marriage, by any means necessary, and they are counting on that happening if it is put to a vote.

    But the bottom line, which so many people seem to be missing, is why should ANYBODY’S civil rights be put to a popular vote?

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