BELFAST, Maine — A new poll indicates that Mainers’ acceptance of same-sex marriage has increased significantly since the November vote, but an opponent cautions against making too much of numbers from Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling.
In November, with just 47 percent of voters opposing the referendum to legalize gay marriage, the law was passed at the polls. The Public Policy Polling poll — released in late August — shows that opposition to gay marriage has declined to 38 percent since then.
“That may be because most voters don’t think gay marriage being legal has been a big deal,” the Public Policy Polling pollsters posited. “Only 20 percent say it’s had a negative impact on their lives, with 18 percent saying it’s been positive and 62 percent that there hasn’t been any impact at all.”
According to Fordham University and national pollster Nate Silver, Public Policy Polling has a tendency to favor Democrats, but the organization was one of the most accurate pollsters in the 2012 election cycle.
David Farmer, who served as communications director for Mainers United For Marriage, said Tuesday that the figures are right in line with his expectations.
“As Maine people have had an opportunity to see the law firsthand and to see how it really impacts them and their families and neighbors, acceptance is growing,” he said. “All the dire consequences opponents of freedom to marry predicted just haven’t come true. What you do have are loving, committed couples who have had the opportunity to get married.”
But Carroll Conley Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said that his experiences are showing him otherwise. He said it is impossible to know if the people polled this summer by Public Policy Polling are the same people who came out to the polls in November to vote. He also said that in the weeks leading up to the vote, both sides of the issue were able to make their case over the airwaves and through the media. Since that vote, however, the narrative has mostly been about same-sex couples getting married.
“There’s been nothing but promotion of the idea of redefinition of marriage,” Conley said.
He has received emails from people who are worried that their strongly-held beliefs against gay marriage, religious or otherwise, will be disregarded because of the new law. Conley said this week he heard from two people in occupations he hadn’t previously considered to be impacted by the law — a certified public accountant and another that is “so rare” he declined to share it. Neither person wants to do work for same-sex couples but may be forced to under the new law, he said.
“What are we going to do when we’re told we don’t have a choice in participating?” Conley asked. “If this could be a live and let live situation, if some people want to be happy and accept gay marriage, fine. Say some adoption agencies want to [accept it] and Catholic Charities doesn’t want to accept it. I think that’s what most Americans have in their minds.”
But that’s not what’s likely to be the case, Conley said, citing the decision made last week by the New Mexico Supreme Court that a photographer’s choice not to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony amounted to illegal discrimination.
“The other side has made this a fairness issue. Americans want to be fair,” Conley said, adding that it’s clear to him there will be consequences to the law that will not please everyone. “The citizens of Maine spoke. That is the law. Whether or not they know those consequences, we are going to make them known. But we’re committed to doing that in an effective and respectful manner.”
Reuters contributed to this report.