Gay Marriage

America Loves Gay Marriage (and Weed)

A new poll shows even a majority of Republicans now support same-sex marriage.

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Support for same-sex marriage in the United States has reached a record high of 70 percent, according to a new Gallup poll, conducted in May.

For the first time, support for same-sex marriage among Republicans has passed the 50 percent threshold, jumping all the way up to 55 percent.

Support for same-sex marriage has been steadily increasing since Gallup started asking about it in 1997. When Gallup first asked, support was at just 27 percent. In just a quarter of a century, the numbers have reversed entirely. Support continues to grow among all age groups.

It's a wonderful reminder, during Pride Month, of how quickly life has gotten better for LGBT people in America. It's a win for liberty because it's a result not of government mandates but of people genuinely and honestly changing their minds, realizing that allowing gay people to define their own relationships and families is not some threat to society. The growth in support started well before the Supreme Court mandated in 2015 that the federal government and states recognize same-sex marriage and, as Jonathan Rauch noted in Reason in 2018, tracked with Americans slowly changing their minds about the morality of same-sex relationships as well.

In fact, you can't even tell when that ruling came down from looking at polling data. The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges probably didn't cause greater numbers of Americans to support same-sex marriage; it merely reflected what Americans had already come to conclude—that the government had no legitimate reason to treat same-sex marriages differently from heterosexual ones. It was the logical outcome once people by and large concluded that homosexuality was not a moral threat after all.

Support for legalizing marijuana is just a couple of points behind gay marriage. Gallup's poll from 2020 has support at 68 percent. Republicans in the most recent polling remain below the 50 percent threshold. Only 48 percent support legalization, but it did cross that threshold in two previous polls, only to decline.

Marijuana has taken a much longer time to reach this point. The harsh drug war Americans were sold kept support for marijuana legalization below 30 percent all the way until the end of the 20th century.

As many at Reason have previously noted, state experimentation through the mechanism of federalism has played a major role in shifting public opinion toward accepting both same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana use. In each case, a handful of states led the way. Citizens in other states could see the results. Gay marriage didn't destabilize families. Marijuana use didn't destroy lives, and it did seem to help people with certain illnesses feel better.

President Joe Biden, unfortunately, remains well behind the curve in marijuana legalization and does not seem terribly interested in actually doing much about it remaining a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. But Americans continue to see, every day, that marijuana is no more of a moral threat than same-sex marriage. Rauch wrote in 2018:

Over time, it became evident that marijuana and marriage, like most political issues today, were primarily about morals and values, and only secondarily about policy trade-offs. For marriage equality, the real hang-up was the majority's belief that same-sex relations, in or out of marriage, are morally wrong, something most Americans told Gallup they believed until 2010. Attitudes toward same-sex marriage closely tracked with attitudes toward same-sex morality. People regarded support for legalization as a form of personal approval.

Much the same is true for marijuana. In 2006, most Americans told Pew Research that using marijuana was morally wrong. That figure had declined to only a third in 2013, a crucial breakthrough, given that most Americans do not distinguish clearly between public policy and personal morality. "As long as they saw marijuana as a threat to the safety of their children, we couldn't win," Stroup says. "As long as it was considered sinful or bad conduct or immoral, they were not about to" support legalization.

In other words, it was not enough to show that getting married or high is my right; activists needed to show that it is right—or at least not wrong.

Both advocates of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization have succeeded wonderfully here, and slowly but surely, Americans are becoming more able to define their own relationships and consume what they want without the government attempting to punish them for it.