Third Way Perspectives
April 9th, 2013
On March 26, 2003, a lawyer stood in front of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court and argued that states should not be allowed to criminally prosecute gay and lesbian people for engaging in sexual activity. At the time, 14 states still had laws on the books that made “homosexual conduct” a crime. Flash forward exactly ten years later, and the Court was considering whether Proposition 8, (barring gay couples from marrying in California) violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. What a difference a decade makes.
To say our country has undergone a rapid transformation on the issue of marriage for gay couples is an understatement. The speed and breadth of this evolution have shocked even the most optimistic advocates. Just in the past two weeks, a cascade of Senators from purple and red states have added their voices to the chorus of marriage supporters, including Rockefeller, Kaine, Tester, McCaskill, Portman, Warner, and Hagan at last count. And this week’s Supreme Court arguments were another landmark moment for the cause.
Because this progress has come at such an astonishing clip, it is understandable that many had hoped the Supreme Court would take this opportunity to issue a broad decision that acknowledged a Constitutional right for gay couples to marry nationwide. After this week’s oral arguments, that outcome seems unlikely. But that reality should not be seen as a setback — rather, it is an opportunity to continue our nation’s swift journey toward full acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
January 31st, 2013
This piece was originally published in The Hill.
The phone rings in the house of an undocumented immigrant who has lived here for decades. The person on the line offers her a deal. If she registers with the US government, goes through a criminal background check, and pays a fine, she will be forever allowed to work, travel, and conduct her affairs in America without fear of deportation. For her children, even better — they will be given a fast-track path to citizenship. And down the line, once more is done to secure the border, she can get in the back of the line and eventually earn her citizenship as well.
Is there any chance she would say no?
On Monday, a bipartisan group of 8 Senators released an immigration reform proposal that would offer exactly that scenario to undocumented immigrants. Yet many reform advocates reacted warily to the plan, and even the Administration offered a few pointed criticisms in its otherwise favorable statement. In particular, they argued that using a “trigger” of border security to determine when some immigrants can move from a provisional legal status to a permanent one with a path to citizenship is unacceptable.
October 31st, 2012
This piece was originally featured on the Advocate.
This year might bring the first-ever statewide vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples — and for that you have your grandmother to thank. Why? Because contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans born in the 1940s have been changing their minds on the marriage issue faster than nearly any other age group. And they are in good company.
Some marriage advocates have posited that the mammoth growth our country has seen in support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has been primarily caused by younger, more accepting voters replacing older ones in the population. But new data released in our new report, The Big Shift, shows that this phenomenon only explains one quarter of the total movement since 2004, while 75% of the shift was caused by Americans of all ages — including your parents’ and grandparents’ generation — changing their minds. Read the rest of this entry »
May 11th, 2012
Given the President’s announcement of his support for marriage this week, folks are understandably searching for data on how his position will play with voters in the middle. Our four years of in-depth research into that question provides crucial insights—here’s a quick look at some key numbers from our July 2011 poll.
1. A strong majority of Americans say they will accept marriage for gay couples.
When asked how they would feel if gay couples could marry, 32% said they would be glad, 23% said they would not like it but it would be acceptable to them, and 37% said it would not be acceptable to them (another 9% said they didn’t know). So approximately a third of the country will likely be energized by President Obama’s announcement, and another third will accept it. Only about a third will find it unacceptable—and our guess is that likely very few (if any) of those folks were planning to vote for President Obama before his interview.
2. The “rights” argument may fall flat with the middle, but “commitment” can woo them.
Only a bare majority agreed that “marriage is a basic human right that should not be denied to gay people” (52%) and only slightly more thought that “not allowing gay people to marry is discrimination.” But 60% of respondents in our poll agreed that allowing gay couples to marry would “help committed couples take care of each other and their families.” That included 63% of Independents and 78% of those who rated themselves 5s on a 1-10 comfort scale with marriage. And 61% of all respondents thought the following statement described the issue of marriage for gay couples very well or pretty well: “I believe gay couples want to marry for similar reasons as anyone—to make a public promise of love and commitment.”
A solid 61% described this statement as convincing, including 37% who said it was very convincing:
Some people say that gay and lesbian couples who are truly committed to each other want similar things as the rest of us—to build a life together based on love and commitment, staying together through thick and thin. The Golden Rule is one of the most important values we teach our children—to treat others as we want to be treated. So if a couple is willing to stand up in front of family and friends and make a lifetime promise to each other, it’s not for us to judge, or to deny them that opportunity.
Those who thought that statement was convincing included 64% of Independents, 79% of those who rated themselves a 5 on the comfort scale, and 80% of those who said marriage would be acceptable but they wouldn’t like it (the grudging acceptors).
May 11th, 2012
This piece was originally posted on Politico.
President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday in support of marriage for gay couples answered one key question: Where does he — and so his party — stand? Now the big question is: Are Americans in the middle ready to accept this?
That answer can be yes, based on our four years of extensive research into that precise question — if marriage supporters heed three crucial lessons about how the middle views this issue.
First, the “rights” frame is wrong. One word emerged during our nine rounds of research that described how Americans in the middle view marriage: commitment.
In fact, when undecided Americans were asked what marriage means to them, “commitment” came up four times as often as the word “love.” “Rights” never came up — not once. To folks in the middle, marriage is about making a promise to care for each other for a lifetime, through better or worse.
They often focused on the latter — because that is what makes marriage unique from other relationships. To them, marriage is about one thing: the obligation and responsibility that comes with making a public promise of lifetime commitment.
February 15th, 2012