Movement on marriage in 3 countries

1. Denmark has a state church. Its national legislators have voted 85-24 “allowing same-sex couples to get married in formal church weddings instead of the short blessing ceremonies that the state’s Lutheran Church currently offers.”

By the way, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there is no state church and, no matter what happens involving marriage law, religions will make their own choices about who they marry.

2. In the United States, support for same-sex marriage has been lower among African-Americans than among whites. This led some commentators to suggest that President Obama’s statement in support of marriage equality would lead him to lose support from African-Americans.

Instead, it appears that support for marriage equality has increased among African-Americans.

In a national poll, “support for gay marriage has reached a new high among African-Americans in ABC/Post polls, up from four in 10 in recent surveys to 59 percent now.”

A similar trend has been found in Maryland, which faces a referendum to overturn its new marriage law. “55 percent of the state’s African Americans would vote for the law, compared to 36 percent who said they would oppose it. PPP pollster Tom Jensen noted that support for the statute among black Marylanders has increased nearly 20 percent since March.

African-American support for same-sex marriage has also increased in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

3. In Australia, majorities support marriage equality and pressure is building to allow national legislators “a vote of conscience,” in which the vote is determined by the individual representative, not his or her political party.

Some Australian state parliaments (legislatures) have already voted in support of same-sex marriage. If federal party leaders do not allow this conscience vote, it will fail on the national level. As Australian law professor George Williams explains:

Even where federal members support same-sex marriage, some will not vote for it. Unlike the NSW [New South Wales] Premier, Barry O’Farrell, the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has denied his members a conscience vote. Coalition members can cross the floor to vote against their party, but doing so is a major step and only the strongest supporters of reform will do so.

Like the United States, Australia has a government using federalism, so that states have their own range of power and discretion.  As George Williams notes:

[I]f the Commonwealth does not act, the debate will shift to the states and territories. Advocates will argue that recognition in some parts of Australia is better than none. The Australian experience is also that national reform can occur once an idea has been tried out in one or more states. This is the path being followed in the United States.

Recent state and territory motions in support of same-sex marriage are all the more significant in this light. If the numbers are there in some jurisdictions to prod the Commonwealth towards change, they may also be there to legislate for the reform if the Federal Parliament fails to do so.

Here are two Australian videos on marriage equality.

The first concerns a recent campaign initiative, “I do.”

The Australian Christian Lobby complained that the campaign constituted a “breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, which requires news to be presented impartially.”

The second, from an Australian group, is called “It’s Time.” When it first aired six months ago, it went viral.


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.