A new Associated Press-Gfk poll, released on July 18, reveals that the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right has not solved the deeper debate in this country, contrary to the media assertion that this is settled “law” and that everybody needs to get on board or be quiet.
Forty-one percent of Americans oppose the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, while only 39 percent support it. But you wouldn’t know this by reading the triumphalist headlines of most news organizations following the ruling.
The poll also revealed that 42 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage, while 40 percent remained opposed. The percent of supporters has fallen from 48 percent in April.
Both of these polls reveal divisions within the polling margin of error, but religious freedom has a vast majority of support. In the poll, 56 percent of respondents said that “protection of religious liberties should take precedence over gay rights,” while only 39 percent said the opposite.
While polls should never have an undue effect on someone’s political or moral positions—as Robert Wuthnow convincingly argues in the most recent issue of First Things—this new poll does seem to reveal that an artificial consensus created by the elite of this country, and the relatively quiet response among the opposition, has not taken dramatic hold of the hearts and minds of ordinary people in this nation. The fear of losing one’s job or reputation has made many Americans afraid to speak publicly about this issue, even though their deep convictions about life, marriage, and family have not changed in response to elite cultural pressure.
There are indeed religious freedom battles that need to be fought in Congress and in the courts. But there seems to be an opportunity now, given the legal defeat for same-sex marriage, to cut through the battle lines and appeal to everyday Americans about strengthening their own families by deepening their understanding of what marriage and family really is.
The truth that each person was created in a certain way for a certain purpose cannot be eradicated by a sophisticated media campaign. The courageous presentation of the truth, with love and compassion, will appeal to those who realize the downfalls of a society that attempts to recreate man in its own arbitrary image.
In prematurely attempting to finalize the same-sex marriage debate, the Supreme Court has only succeeded in cementing a greater divide among Americans.
Dominic Bouck, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.