By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
With Barack Obama making presidential history by declaring his support for same-sex marriages, it’s a good time to look where gay marriage rests in Florida.
Quick answer: It wouldn’t win in a vote.
According to Public Policy Polling, 53 percent of Floridians oppose gay marriage and only 37 percent support it. That’s according to a July 2011 survey of 848 Florida voters by the Raleigh, N.C.-based pollster — apparently the most recent poll available.
That same survey did indicate some leeway on the issue. When the question was asked in a different way, 33 percent said they thought gay couples should be allowed to marry legally, and another 34 percent said they should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry. Thirty-one percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
Age was a big factor in attitudes. Younger people, age 18-29, said they are fine with legalizing gay marriage by a margin of 47-44. In the age group 30-45, the margin rose to 51 percent in favor, 42 percent opposed.
But in the age group 46-65, only 34 percent approved of legalizing gay marriage; 56 percent opposed it. And people over 65? A mere 22 percent said gay marriage should be legal, while a whopping 65 percent said no.
(And Florida, of course, has a lot of old people — 2.8 million over age 65, or almost 18 percent, the largest proportion of any state, according to the 2000 Census.)
Florida’s acceptance of gay marriage lags significantly behind the nation’s as a whole. According to a Gallup poll released this month, Americans backing gay marriage outnumbered opponents, 50 percent to 48 percent, with 2 percent undecided. A Pew Research Center poll released in April also shows winning support for gay marriage, with 47 percent of Americans in favor and 43 percent opposed. As recently as 2008, the same poll showed a majority were opposed. In that short time, support for same-sex marriage jumped 16 points.
Same-sex marriages, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships for gays, are not recognized under Florida law. In 2008, voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions with 62 percent of the vote — making Florida one of 31 states where voters have put a constitutional bar on what many proponents call a civil right but what opponents call an assault on tradition and religion.
Nevertheless, some cities and counties have pushed the issue on their own, including Orlando and Tampa, which have created domestic partnership registries. Unmarried couples — both gay and straight — who sign up are granted some of the same rights as married men and women, including hospital visitations, rights to health care decisions and joint guardianship of children.