Five years ago same-sex marriages were recognized by Massachusetts state courts after such recognition was voted down by citizens in a referendum. In March the National Organization for Marriage and the Massachusetts Family Initiative joined forces to poll the state’s residents on their beliefs about same-sex marriage.

On the question of whether they favored or opposed same-sex marriages residents were split 44 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed, a sign of the continued division on the question. But another area had more interesting results:

Massachusetts voters were also asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “All things being equal, it is better for children to be raised by their married mother and father.” Seventy-six percent of voters agreed (66 percent strongly) while 21 percent disagreed (13 percent strongly).

A similar question was asked in a 2004 poll of Massachusetts residents. In 2004, 84 percent of Massachusetts residents agreed (33 percent strongly) and 16 percent disagreed (2 percent strongly). Thus, in the five years since gay marriage became a reality in Massachusetts, support for the idea that the ideal is a married mother and father dropped from 84 percent to 76 percent. The proportion who disagreed strongly increased nearly sevenfold, from 2 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2009.

Notice another remarkable increase: The number of people who strongly agreed with the ideal of a married mother and father doubled (33 to 66 percent). This would suggest that while fewer agree with that ideal, those who do are firmer in their convictions. Whether they offset the smaller but more rapidly growing number of strong opponents remains to be seen.

The poll also identified a sizable minority (34 to 36 percent) who feel that their opposition to same-sex marriage is unwelcome and will have negative consequences for their lives. More studies would be required to confirm that these changes are due to the recognition of same-sex marriage and not part of a larger national trend, but the poll corroborates the trend NOM expected: “Support for the idea that children need a mom and dad has dropped, and a substantial minority of people believe it is risky to oppose gay marriage openly.”

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