Support for marriage equality remains high across the United States, with new Gallup polling published Wednesday finding that a record 71 percent of Americans are in favor of it. The results are slightly higher than last year’s, when 70 percent of respondents backed same-sex marriage.
The findings, from telephone interviews conducted throughout May, carry extra significance in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. LGBTQ+ legal experts have warned that overturning Roe could endanger marriage equality by eroding the right to privacy typically protected by the 14th Amendment’s right to due process.
The Gallup polling underlines how the court’s potential decision on Roe — and the potential consequences for Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage — “flies in the face of what the majority of people feel about same-sex couples having access to the same set of rights that opposite sex couples do,” said Cathy Renna, spokesperson for the National LGBTQ Task Force.
In an exclusive The 19th/Momentive poll published last week, 70 percent of voters said they do not want Obergefell v. Hodges overturned. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they did not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned, either.
Overturning Roe would signal that the court is willing to disturb significant legal precedent, experts told The 19th, and that marriage equality and LGBTQ+ relationships could be further called into question by a Supreme Court with a conservative majority. One of Justice Samuel Alito’s arguments in the draft decision — that the right to privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution — could weaken protections for those rights, as well as other rights to bodily autonomy and personal health decision-making.
Alito also argues that Roe must be overturned since abortion access is not “deeply rooted” in the country’s history. Marriage equality has only been the law of the land for nearly seven years.
Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case who is now a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives, has personally expressed his fear that Roe being overturned would undermine the protections won by his case.
“This decision, and what Alito has to say about marriage equality, is a clear call to anyone who opposes marriage equality, who opposes LGBTQ+ equality, that they have a friend on the court. More than one friend. And that they should be happy or they should be willing to come after marriage equality,” Obergefell told CNN in early May.
Obergefell told The 19th via text that he is not surprised that support for marriage equality has gone up.
“Same-sex marriage is part of our families and our communities, and love is something we should all celebrate,” he said. “My hope is that the ever-increasing support for marriage equality, and LGBTQ+ equality in general, causes opponents of equality to think twice about attacking our community or attempting to deny or take back the rights we deserve as human beings and Americans.”
Roe potentially being overturned — and the resulting possible domino effect that decision could have on marriage equality, plus Americans’ right to same-sex relationships (Lawrence v. Texas)and Loving v. Virginia, which found that laws banning interracial marriages violate the 14th Amendment — are among those rights, he said.
If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe, that will also likely embolden state legislatures who have been rapidly introducing anti-LGBTQ+ bills “to continue to test the limits of court recognized LGBTQ+ equality,” Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign legal director, said in an emailed statement.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in an emailed statement that, in light of widespread support for Roe and Obergefell, Congress and the Supreme Court should codify protections against discrimination.
“Seven years after Obergefell, it’s ever more apparent that LGBTQ couples are worthy of love and recognition and our families are welcome and valued,” she said.
Although overall support for LGBTQ+ couples getting married has been steadily rising for years, support is more divided among Republicans than Democrats. The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found in 2021 that 48 percent of GOP voters supported gay marriage, while 50 percent opposed. By Gallup’s count that same year, 55 percent of Republicans expressed support for same-sex marriage — the highest percentage among Republicans ever found by the organization.
In its new poll, Gallup also found that the primary demographic holdout against marriage equality are Americans who attend church weekly, 58 percent of whom are opposed to gay marriage.
However, PRRI found in 2021 that members of many major religious groups significantly support same-sex marriage, including Unitarian Universalists, Jewish Americans, Catholics, and Buddhists. Among some groups, like Muslims and Orthodox Christians, about half of respondents supported gay marriage. White evangelical Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses were the least likely to support same-sex marriage.