More than 91 percent of the undergraduate student population supports legalizing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, according to a Herald poll conducted last month. Nearly 86 percent of female students responded that they strongly agree that Rhode Island should legalize same-sex marriage, while only 78 percent of male students strongly agreed with legalization.
A 2012 Gallup poll reflected similar discrepancies in support across gender lines, with 56 percent of women agreeing that same-sex marriage should be legalized in the United States, but only 42 percent of men expressing similar support for such legislation.
Some students said they believe the variance in support can be attributed to the difference in how men and women perceive the idea of marriage.
“Maybe women think about it more … like a romanticized thing,” said Natasha Rosario ’16. “Maybe there are a greater number of women who are comfortable with LGBTQ,” she said, adding that the average woman may tend to sentimentalize same-sex marriage more than the average man.
“The answer I’m thinking of sounds sort of heteronormative,” said Susan Chakmakian ’14. “The way society works, women are depicted as thinking more about marriage than men are.” Often women are more “accepting” of behaving outside the status quo when compared to men, she added.
Tyler White ’13 said the difference in opinion likely stems from a biological rather than cultural difference.
“Naturally women are more compassionate,” White said. “Women’s brains work differently than men’s do, right?”
Kavya Ramanan ’15 said women might support same-sex marriage more because LGBTQ rights are often associated with the feminist cause.
“Because women traditionally are a marginalized group, and homosexuals are also another marginalized group, that there might be sort of … understanding that society isn’t totally set up for them,” said Rachel Bloom ’13. “Maybe it’s that mutual understanding that things could be better all around, so why not stand in solidarity with that group?” Marginalized groups can be more empathetic to adversity faced by other minorities, she added.
About 87 percent of students who identified as “white” strongly agree with legalization compared to just three-quarters of students who identified as “non-white.”
The Herald poll revealed a nuanced correlation between religious affiliation and approval for legalizing same-sex marriage. Seventy-five percent of those who identified as Protestant strongly agreed that same-sex marriage should be legalized. But Protestants also comprised the largest percentage of those who expressed strong disagreement with legalizing same-sex marriage at slightly more than 11 percent.
About 92 percent of those who identified as Jewish strongly agreed with legalization, with atheists, agnostics and those reporting “other” religious affiliation expressing similar support.
Bloom said she believes religious affiliation plays into the discrepancy apparent between support among racial groups.
“You’d think it might be the other way around,” Chakmakian said. As marginalized groups, minorities and LGBTQ individuals might stand in solidarity, she said, but “a lot of people in media who support same-sex marriage are also white.”
“My guess would be that people that object to same-sex marriage are probably objecting along politically conservative lines or religious lines,” said Ralph Rodriguez, associate professor of American studies. “Are they against same-sex marriage because they’re of a certain racial group, or because they’re of a certain faith?” he said.