Poll finds increased support for same-sex marriage

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WPRI poll results released Oct. 1 show that 56 percent of Rhode Island voters are in favor of same-sex marriage and only 36 percent are in opposition. These numbers represent historic highs and lows, respectively, in Rhode Island, and same-sex marriage supporters said they feel that the movement’s building momentum is finally supported by statistics. 

A February poll showed 50 percent of Rhode Islanders supported same-sex marriage, while 41 percent opposed it. The most recent poll represents an 11 point widening.

“These polls reflect what we’ve seen on the ground for the past two years,” said Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Marriage Equality Rhode Island. “We’re excited, and we’re certainly pleased, but we’re not surprised.”

The same-sex movement has been steadily gaining support in past years but has experienced hold-ups in the state legislature. In 2010, House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, who is openly gay, supported a same-sex marriage bill but ended up deciding that it was not immediately feasible. In a blow to same-sex marriage supporters, he shifted his support to a civil union bill in April of 2011. 

Gabriel Schwartz ’13, co-coordinator of Brown’s Queer Political Action Committee, said while the civil union bill was a step in the right direction, it is still discriminatory. “The poll is helpful because it shows what we have been trying to prove,” he added. “Rhode Island is a Catholic, blue-collar state, and this hasn’t always been okay.” 

At Brown, students are actively pushing for a same-sex marriage bill by supporting candidates in favor of same-sex marriage and by volunteering with MERI, Schwartz said.

Bennett Knox ’15, another co-coordinator of the Queer Political Action Committee, said while the poll is encouraging for the upcoming presidential election, the Sept. 11 primaries were the more important race in Rhode Island. Over half the candidates who would support a same-sex marriage bill won their primary battles, two in the Senate and seven in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. “It’s going to be a long haul, even if we do get the legislature,” Knox said. “We’re hoping the polls like these will give us the tools to do this, as initiative for people to sign up.” 

“If the poll is used correctly, it could be a very good thing,” Knox added. “The danger is that if you spread it around to the wrong people, it could frighten people against (it), and it could be counterproductive. But it is an encouragement, and it is encouraging for those fighting for their views to be backed.”

The current level of support for same-sex marriage in the General Assembly is unprecedented, Sullivan said. And once legislators reconvene in January, a same-sex marriage bill may move forward quickly with the speaker’s support, he said.

“Should I be re-elected, I am committed to bringing marriage equality legislation to a vote in the House early in the 2013 session. I believe we will have the necessary votes to pass marriage equality in the House. The results of the WPRI poll confirm my belief that this is an issue gaining great momentum and acceptance in Rhode Island,” wrote Larry Berman, Fox’s spokesman, on behalf of the speaker, in an email to The Herald. 

The bill would also have support from the state’s top leader. 

“The governor has backed the issue prior to now, and continues to do so,” said Christine Hunsinger, director of communications for Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14. “The Speaker intends to propose the marriage equality bill, and the governor would back it.” 

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  1. David Murphy says:

    1,051,302 population of the state? I have seen bigger; small cities. Who cares what they do. That has absolutely no effect unless you are gay. Which means it will matter to about 10,000 people in the state. Wow big news. I guess nothing ever happens in the state. 🙂

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