Polls Suggest States May Pass Gay Marriage By Popular Vote For The First Time

Polling numbers suggest a majority of voters support legalizing same-sex marriage on the ballots in Maine, Maryland and Washington, while Minnesota straddles the fence. Should any of the states approve the ballots, it will be the first time gay marriage passes by popular vote as opposed to going through the courts or legislature.

“We’re feeling positive. The reality is, we haven’t won a ballot measure on marriage yet,” Human Rights Campaign state legislative director Sarah Warbelow told NBC News. “I think it’s very reasonable and realistic to expect that we’ll win one or more of these ballot measures; certainly the polling suggests that all four are … a possibility.”

Quick to rain on the gay parade is Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which donated $250,000 to each state’s anti-marriage equality campaigns last week. “They’re doing what they’ve always done, taking their victory lap before their first victory,” Brown said. “The poll numbers that they’re interpreting as good for them are actually not good for them.”

NBC reports:

— In Maine, 53 percent said they will vote to back the initiative to institute gay marriage, compared to 44 percent who are opposed, according to Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm that works for Democratic candidates and progressive causes. The mid-September poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

— In Maryland, 54 percent said they’ll back the state law that was passed by the legislature earlier this year, compared to 40 percent who are opposed, according to Hart Research Associates, which conducted the July 24-28 poll for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

— In Minnesota, the vote was a virtual tie, according to Public Policy Polling’s Sept. 10-11 poll, which had 48 percent supporting the amendment to ban gay marriage, 47 percent opposed and 5 percent undecided. The poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. The margin of error for the overall survey was  plus or minus 3.4 percent.

— In Washington, 56 percent of voters think the law legalizing same-sex marriage should be upheld, while 38 percent think it should be overturned, and 6 percent are not sure, according to a Sept. 7-9 SurveyUSA poll for KING-5 News in Seattle. The margin of error was plus or minor 4.3 percent.

Polls can be deceiving, however, as California had a pro-gay marriage majority in 2008 before the passing of Prop 8.  As Dean Debnam, president of Maine’s Public Policy Polling, points out, “Our experience in polling gay marriage is that if people say they’re undecided it usually means they’re opposed to it. Despite the 8 point lead for passage this should be seen as a very close race.”

Still, Warbelow maintains her optimism. “The polling is much higher than it’s ever been. We were not seeing these kinds of numbers in prior years,” she said. “We’re hoping for all four, but even one will really change the conversation in the United States.”