Gay marriage gains rapid support with U.S. public, including conservatives

WASHINGTON (RNS) As the Supreme Court readies to hear a group of cases that could make same-sex marriage legal from coast to coast, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry is piling in from all directions.

On April 28, the court will hear arguments in four related cases that address whether state bans on gay and lesbian marriages are constitutional. The ruling is expected by late June.

But new opinion polls and friend-of-the-court briefs that were due Friday (March 6) show widespread acceptance of marriage as a right for all.

Climbing public support: The rate of growth for supporting same-sex marriage has risen so rapidly even the director of the national biennial General Social Survey is marveling at the speed of change.

“Most things change slowly. This is one of the most impressive changes we’ve measured,” said Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center, based at the University of Chicago, which conducts the GSS.The GSS first asked about legalizing same-sex marriage in 1988, and only 11 percent agreed.

According to results released Thursday, the 2014 survey found 56 percent of Americans overall now support civil marriage for same-sex couples, up from 48 percent in 2012. The numbers bumped up in every age group and political persuasion.

Because nearly three in four adults under age 35 are the most strongly in favor of gay marriage, Smith said there’s likely to be even more movement in this direction in society overall: “They’re the engine moving change.”

Big business backing: Nearly 400 businesses including Google Inc., American Airlines Group Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Johnson & Johnson signed on to a friend of the court brief filed earlier this week, according to Reuters.

“Allowing same-sex couples to marry improves employee morale and productivity, reduces uncertainty, and removes the wasteful administrative burdens imposed by the current disparity of state law treatment,” the brief says.

Big-name backing: Support from Democrats is not news. But this week dozens of prominent conservatives, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and David Koch, one of the deeply conservative billionaire Koch brothers, signed a brief that says “conservative values are consistent with — indeed, are advanced by — affording civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.”

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia but still embroiled in legal battles in Alabama.

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