by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The Republican Party should change the way it discusses same-sex marriage, says the pollster for former President George W. Bush's successful 2004 re-election campaign.
In a May 11 memo to party operatives, Jan van Lohuizen noted that there's been an increase in public support for marriage equality 'at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down.'
'The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups,' wrote van Lohuizen.
'While more Democrats support Gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same-sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.'
And he notes that people's attitudes have moved within the GOP on whether to provide 'basic legal' protections to Gay people, with a proposed shift in language about understanding rights.
Van Lohuizen told GOP operatives a review of public polling shows that up to 2009, support for Gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% per year. Starting in 2010, the increase in support accelerated to 5% per year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of Gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in February/March found 49% in support, 40% opposed).
'People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to Gay and Lesbian couples. Gay and Lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law,' said van Lohuizen.
'People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that Gays and Lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.'
So what is changing? Van Lohuizen thinks that 'as more people have become aware of friends and family members who are Gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace.'
'As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment, and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government, we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone,' concluded van Lohuizen's memo.
'This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing - the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.'
Van Lohuizen's memo to GOP operatives comes at a time when, for the third year in a row, a Gallup poll found that U.S. acceptance of Gay and Lesbian relations is the new 'normal.'
According to data released May 14 by Gallup, a slight majority of American adults, 54%, consider same-sex relations morally acceptable. Public acceptance of such relations grew steadily from 38% in 2002 to 56% in 2011, and is now holding at the majority level.
This Gallup trend mirrors the growth in public support for legalizing same-sex marriage, which has risen from 42% support in 2004 to 50% or greater support in the past two years.
Americans' support for Gay rights on both questions leveled off in this year's Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 3-6.
Gallup's longer-term question measuring U.S. attitudes toward Gays asks whether same-sex relations should or should not be legal. The 63% now saying Gay relations should be legal nearly matches the record-high 64% of a year ago, which came after a long-term increase in support for legality from 32% in 1986.
Across all three questions, women, adults aged 18 to 34, and Democrats are more supportive of Gay rights than men, older adults, and Republicans. Nonreligious Americans are much more supportive than Christians. Among Christians, Catholics are more supportive than Protestants as a whole. Residents of the South are far less supportive than those in the East, Midwest, and West.
In response to another long-term trend question, Gallup finds a close division between those who believe being Gay or Lesbian is a trait a person is born with (40%) and those who say it is due to upbringing and other environmental factors (35%). Americans' views on the 'nature vs. nurture' question have largely held steady over the past decade, but prior to 2001, significantly more Americans believed that homosexuality was a product of upbringing.
The bottom line, says Gallup officials, is that 'Americans' acceptance of Gays and Lesbians as equal members of society has increased steadily in the past decade to the point that half or more now agree that being Gay is morally acceptable, that Gay relations ought to be legal, and that Gay or Lesbian couples should have the right to legally marry.'
While public support has been trending upward, support on all three measures was slightly higher in 2011 than in the new 2012 poll, suggesting attitudes may be leveling off - at least for the time being.
'Significant pockets of resistance remain - namely Republicans, those 55 and older, Protestants, residents of the South, and, in some respects, men - but majorities of other groups have grown comfortable with Gay rights,' reports Gallup.
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