New Poll: Repeal DOMA

As a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced into Congress, a new poll shows a majority of voters support ending the federal law defining marriage as one man and one woman, and denying federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

The poll, commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, revealed that overall, 51 percent of voters polled oppose DOMA while 34 percent favor it.

Independent voters, who were instrumental in the Republican House takeover, oppose the law by a 52 percent to 34 percent margin. Additionally, when read statements for and against defending DOMA in court, 54 percent of voters oppose the House Republicans’ intervention, while only 32 percent support it.

Opponents may try to dismiss the poll, since it was commissioned by the largest organization fighting for LGBT rights, but the numbers [pdf] show that the sample actually skewed right.

Of the 800 registered voters polled 38 percent were strong, weak, or independent-leaning Democrats with 41 percent identifying as strong, weak, or independent leaning Republicans. Conservatives outweighed liberals by 38 to 18 percent, and a full 74 percent of those polled identified as religious. Some 40 percent claimed the moniker of “born again,” and 33 percent said they attended church once or more a week – two markers that usually make for anti-marriage equality opinions.

One glaring flaw is the diversity of the sample – 75 percent of the respondents were white, but the majority of those polled were women at 53 percent.

While the numbers may seem surprising, in light of conservatives’ historically strong support for states’ rights on this issue perhaps they shouldn’t be. Potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates like Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer are already talking about leaving marriage to the states.

Paul said the bottom line is that government shouldn’t get involved and that people shouldn’t need a license to get married. “My position is it’s a personal, spiritual matter.” He said it becomes the state’s concern when one government, such as another state, tries to impose its views on another.

Roemer doesn’t go that far, though, as ABC News reports:

”Each state has a right to determine how it defines a marriage. I’m a Methodist boy. Our church believes that a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I’m not trying to put anybody down. That’s what I believe with my heart and soul. Nothing has changed on that.”

While Paul may want the government completely out of the marriage mix, and Roemer may want the state involved to preserve man-woman only marriage, both seem to agree that religion will continue to play a role. The HRC poll, like any other, is by no means definitive, but it may reveal the beginnings of a move away from support for DOMA, even among the most conservative religious voters.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)