One of the constant refrains we always hear from anti-gay conservatives is that when courts or legislatures bring marriage equality to a state, they are “disenfranchising” millions upon millions of voters who simply want to preserve the “historical” definition of marriage. Despite the fact that these people seem not to be aware that we have three branches of government that are explicitly designed to check and balance each other, and despite the fact that part of the federal judiciary’s very job is to examine state laws to determine whether or not they line up with the US Constitution, they cling to the idea that people’s rights should be subject to popular vote. (At least when those votes go their way.) They cling to percentages like the 76% of Oklahomans who voted to enshrine discrimination in 2004 and the 61% of North Carolinians who voted to do the same in 2012. Of course, they ignore the fact that they’d never get that 76% in Oklahoma or that 61% in North Carolina today — because every day, the anti-gay population shrinks, either by death or by critical thinking — because that interferes with their talking points.
But here’s another thing. Just looking at North Carolina, that “61% of voters” isn’t even true when you get into the math. Today’s Charlotte Observer begins to make this point in an editorial today, exhorting NC House speaker Thom Tillis, who is running against Senator Kay Hagan, and who, despite the fact that it’s a waste of time and money, is vowing to step in and fight to keep the state’s marriage ban on the books, to pay for it himself if it’s so important to him:
In a statement Monday with N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, you said you plan to “vigorously defend the values of our state and the will of more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters who made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
About that 60 percent: It’s a pretty good bet that the percentage of people who voted for North Carolina’s Amendment One in 2012 would not match the percentage who support it now. There’s been a dramatic, 24-month shift in public opinion on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Since N.C. voters passed Amendment One, voters in other states have rejected similar measures. Politicians, including conservatives, have reconsidered their stances.
But even if a significant number of North Carolinians still support a same-sex marriage ban, we’re guessing that many of them don’t support paying for a lost cause. That’s what legal experts are saying about North Carolina’s case. The state’s last hope would be to find a legal argument that hasn’t been made in defense of the ban, but as University of North Carolina family law specialist Maxine Eichner said Monday, “There is nothing at issue that hasn’t already been decided.”
But the commenters really analyze that number further, pointing out that voter turnout was only 34.66%, and of that number, 61.04% voted to enshrine discrimination in North Carolina’s constitution. The election, by the way, was a Republican primary. So let us do some math. 61.04% of 34.66% = 22.18% of North Carolina registered voters, voting in a Republican primary. 22.18%. That is the “61% of North Carolinians” who voted to enshrine discrimination. 22.18% of eligible North Carolina voters cared enough about this issue to vote for it. The other 77.82% of voters either voted against it or didn’t care enough to show up. That 77.82% would be greater now.
This is why it’s ridiculous on its face when wingnuts like Porno Pete or Bryan Fischer talk about civil disobedience or some sort of massive backlash. Though they like to believe that millions upon millions of Americans are just as hateful and backwards as they are, it’s not true. A consistent majority of Americans support marriage equality (that one poll that they’re all excitedly citing is an outlier, and an outlier does not a trend make), and another broad swath of Americans might be theoretically opposed to it, but they don’t care enough to do anything about it.
That’s their coalition. A dwindling fifth of the country that marginalizes itself on a daily basis through its own actions. Forgive me for my lack of alarm.
I’m sure some wingnut can do the numbers on bans passed ten years ago to try to prove a different point, but we’ve gained so much support over those ten years that it would be of no import.