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Fact-check: Religious Right Overstates Opposition to Expanding Marriage

February 24, 2011, 1:25 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

Yesterday the Justice Department announced that it viewed the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and would no longer defend it in court. (Though it seemed to leave the door open to allowing a special counsel to continue to defend it on behalf of Congress.)

Predictably, the decision provoked outrage across the Religious Right. Kyle at Right Wing Watch has a good round-up of their comments here.

One of their key lines of outrage is that this decision represents a left-wing lurch for the President putting him “out of touch” with the majority of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. Family Research Council demonstrates:

“Marriage as a male-female union has been easily defended in court and overwhelmingly supported by the American people. There is absolutely no excuse beyond pandering to his liberal political base for President Obama’s decision to abandon his constitutional role to defend a federal law enacted overwhelmingly by Congress.

Of course, this just isn’t true. Polls consistently indicate that support for same-sex marriage is now a mainstream position, rather than a “far-left” or “extremist” one. As this graph from FiveThirtyEight tracking polls on this subject over time shows, support for marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples is at an all-time high of right around 50%. (Add in civil unions and the support climbs into the 65-75% range).


Even more, much opposition to expanding marriage is based in confusion over what such a change would entail . A poll by Public Religion Research last year found that “when Americans are given a clarification that same-sex marriage would only apply to ‘civil marriages like you get at city hall,’ support for same-sex marriage increases by 22 points.”

It’s fair for groups that disagree with the administration’s decision to make their displeasure known, but it’s disingenuous to suggest that they represent the views of “mainstream” Americans as a whole.

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