February 19, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
59 percent of Americans oppose DOMA: poll
New York Couples

New polls find growing support for marriage equality. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Fifty-nine percent of the American public say they oppose Section 3 of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act after being told it prohibits the federal government from offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The poll, commissioned by the Center for American Progress and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, asked registered voters this question amid other inquiries regarding their beliefs on DOMA. The poll was conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research and Voter Consumer Research.

Additionally, the poll asked respondents in a more abstract way whether they believe it’s discriminatory for the federal government to deny benefits to married same-sex couples. Sixty-two percent of registered voters said they believe withholding such benefits is discrimination.

Notably, the poll finds a greater proportion of the American public opposes DOMA than the bare majority that supports marriage equality. According to the poll, 52 percent of the American public supports same-sex marriage — which is consistent with earlier findings on the issue. That means seven percent oppose DOMA, but don’t support marriage equality.

The poll also breaks down views on the denial of certain rights and benefits. More than a majority support awarding each of these rights and benefits to married same-sex couples.

The right that the greater number of respondents said same-sex couples should enjoy is hospital visitation. A full 78 percent said the federal government shouldn’t deny married gay people from seeing their spouse in the hospital. However, DOMA doesn’t prohibit that right and President Obama has issued a memorandum requiring hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid to grant such visitation rights.

But the benefit that the smallest proportion of respondents supported for same-sex couples was Social Security benefits in case of the death of the spouse. Even so, 66 percent said the federal government shouldn’t deny these benefits. DOMA prohibits this benefit from flowing to same-sex couples.

Mary Bonauto, GLAD’s civil rights director, said she’s not surprised that a majority of the American public opposes DOMA given the harm the anti-gay law inflicts on same-sex couples.

“With each passing day, more and more Americans are learning how DOMA denies important marital protections and heaps disrespect on married same-sex couples across the country – and they’re saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ Bonauto said. “It’s not surprising that a majority of this country now believes that loving, committed couples in legal marriages should be treated fairly under federal law. It’s time for our laws to catch up with where public opinion is on abolishing DOMA.”

Litigation challenging DOMA known as Windsor v. United States is pending before the Supreme Court. Justices are expected to render a decision before their term expires in June.

Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president at the Center for American Progress, said the poll should influence justices’ thinking as they consider the anti-gay law.

“The findings of this poll should provide significant headwinds to LGBT advocates and allies and demonstrate to the Court that the thinking behind DOMA is outdated and indefensible,” Stachelberg said.

On the same day the DOMA poll was made public, the Respect for Marriage Coalition — a partnership of LGBT groups and others working to advance marriage equality — issued another poll finding promising results for marriage equality.

Three-quarters of respondents to this poll, or 75 percent, believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, which is up from 71 percent in 2011. Additionally, 77 percent said they believe same-sex marriage will be legal nationally “in the next couple of years” regardless of their personal views on the issue.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

13 Comments
  • “Fifty-nine percent of the American public say they oppose Section 3 of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act…”

    “52 percent of the American public supports same-sex marriage… That means seven percent oppose DOMA, but don’t support marriage equality.”

    No. It means some people live in a state that bans same-sex marriage. Those people think, if a same-sex couple marry some where else, the Federal government should not discriminate with DOMA. It does not mean they “don’t support marriage equality” anywhere.

    Considering the last poll mentioned – “75 percent, believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right,” it might mean a lot of people think same-sex marriage is fine, but know that ballot measures, legislatures, and the courts have been saying different things, in different states, at different times.

    They want the Supreme Court to settle the matter – they don’t want to go back and do another Prop 8 type ballot measure to reverse the ban in their state. It’s expressed often as: Why waste more money and time, etc…discussing same-sex marriage. It’s inevitable.

    People seldom will admit mistakes, but readily accept a change that does not admit fault, or the mistake.

  • Never forget, DOMA was Bill Clinton’s signature anti-gay marriage initiative.

  • Darlene HawkerSelf

    Many once stalwart supporters of DOMA are now against it because of the implications of it being overturned by the SCOTUS and what that may mean to their individual state's legislation. They fear that if the SCOTUS rules these types of law unconstitutional, the state laws and amendments will also receive a reversal. It's a block of fearful state's rights folk that has increased opposition to DOMA, not altruism or an understanding of civil liberties.

  • I am opposed to DOMA it reinforces policy that is digressive. The people who support this legislation make no account of individual freedom. On a large scale people's independence are being dismissed and the Gay community is asked to withdraw leaving it dependent on others agecies and institutions to insure that they still maintain some emotional balance and integrity.

  • And the other 41% are f_ _ king idiots!

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