Title

Gay Marriage, Public Opinion and the Courts

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This Article examines trends in public opinion and media coverage on gay marriage to evaluate the claim that the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Goodridge v. Department of Health catalyzed an anti-gay “backlash.” We find that in the immediate aftermath of Lawrence a larger share of the American public expressed hostile attitudes on questions tapping opinions on gay sex and gay marriage. That backlash continued through the two Goodridge decisions and the 2004 election, but appears to have leveled off and even returned to pre-Lawrence levels by the summer of 2005. Over that same period the public appears to have become more sharply divided along ideological lines regarding gay marriage. Another important difference is that a growing share of the public now expresses favorable attitudes toward same-sex civil unions. We conclude with some words of caution on the interpretation of polling data and with general thoughts concerning the impact of court decisions on public opinion.

Date of Authorship for this Version

April 2006

Keywords

Gay Marriage, Public Opinion