May 16th, 2014
02:42 PM ET
6 years ago

Same-sex marriage: That was then, this is now

(CNN) – How times have changed.

Ten years ago on Saturday, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage following a ruling months earlier by the state's Supreme Court.

As couples packed Boston's City Hall to apply for marriage licenses, Thomas Menino, the Democratic mayor at the time, gave them a warm welcome. And the state's governor back then, Republican Mitt Romney, said he'd abide by the law.

"An issue as fundamental to society as the definition of marriage should be decided by the people. Until then I intend to follow the law and expect others to do the same," the future Republican presidential nominee added.

Same-sex marriage: Fast Facts

But at the White House, then-President George W. Bush reissued what he termed an "urgent" call for such marriages to be banned under the Constitution.

"The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges," he said in a written statement.

With Bush backing a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, and his Democratic challenger, then-Sen. John Kerry (who opposed same-sex marriage but supported civil unions) hailing from Massachusetts, the issue became a factor in the 2004 presidential election.

That November, voters in 11 states convincingly passed same-sex marriage bans. The push to put the issue on the ballot was seen as a move by the GOP to drive conservative voters to the polls to help re-elect Bush.

One of the states where it passed was the crucial battleground of Ohio. Kerry conceded to Bush the day after Election Day after Bush narrowly captured Ohio.

That was then - This is now

Seventeen states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Around 40% of the country's population lives in states where such marriages are now legal.

But opposition to same-sex marriage remains firm in many parts of the country, and most states still don't allow gays and lesbians to legally wed.

The most dramatic change is in the court of public opinion.

In 2004, public opinion polls indicated that only a minority of the public supported legal same-sex marriage. Now it's different story, with such support at all-time highs.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted two months ago indicated that 59% of Americans favored allowing gay or lesbian couples to legally wed.

The survey was conducted after federal judges struck down a bunch of state bans on same-sex marriage and prohibitions on recognizing such unions performed in other states.

The judges based their rulings on the 5-4 decision last summer by the Supreme Court, which ruled as unconstitutional a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which withheld recognition of, and benefits from, same-sex couples married in states where such marriages are legal.

But recent polling indicates a wide partisan divide on the issue, with most Democrats and a majority of independents supportive of legal same-sex marriages, but by a smaller majority, Republicans opposed to allowing same-sex couples to legally wed. The surveys also point to an expected generational divide, with younger people much more supportive than older people.

Is same-sex marriage no longer a political issue?

And the issue ranks at or near the bottom of lists of the top concerns of voters.

While social conservatives, a key part of the GOP's base, continue to fight against legal same-sex marriage, the issue doesn't seem to fire up the right as a whole, to the extent it did in days past.

Filed under: Massachusetts • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    How many people have gotten divorced because gays can now marry?


    May 16, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    when the geritol generation supporting the GOP finally kicks, they MAY actually get it and come around to common sense....maybe

    May 16, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    The wrong side of history is a lonely place, eh GOPers/Teatrolls?

    May 16, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. just asking

    The wrong side of history is a lonely place, eh GOPers/Teatrolls?

    that's a lot like what the visigoth's said when they sacked rome.
    history has shown that sometimes the barbarians do win.

    May 16, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. Michigan patriot

    Sick ,sick people.

    May 16, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. Jackson

    just asking

    The wrong side of history is a lonely place, eh GOPers/Teatrolls?

    that's a lot like what the visigoth's said when they sacked rome.
    history has shown that sometimes the barbarians do win.


    I challenge you to show how state has suffered any losses in the states where this is legal. We've been told that it would destroy the family unit. Go through the states where this is legal and tell us how those states have seen an erosion of the family unit in ways that states where it is not legal haven't.

    In short, take every complaint against legalizing this and show how *any* state where it is legal has had any of those complaints come to fruition.

    Instead of being flippant about barbarians, why not do some real work and prove your ideas, rather than just give some contrived response that does absolutely nothing to further your argument.

    We'll wait....

    May 16, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. Libertarian

    The law should not dictate who can marry whom. Everybody has a right to their own view of what's moral or not, but nobody should be able to use laws and regulations to prohibit consenting adults of whatever gender from "marrying" if that's what they wish to do.

    May 16, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "that's a lot like what the visigoth's said when they sacked rome.
    history has shown that sometimes the barbarians do win."

    Right, because:

    Gay people having equal rights under the law = 3 sacks of Rome by barbarian tribes, which most Romans believed was punishment on Rome for abandoning the traditional pagan gods in favor of Christianity.

    You guys just can't seem to manage an accurate analogy, can you? Embarrassing for you.

    May 16, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |