Social Policy & Politics Program | Report
Moving the Middle on Marriage
In November 2009, gay equality advocates faced two state ballot initiatives intended to roll back recent gains made in state legislatures on relationship recognition. Working with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Third Way conducted two polls, one in Washington and one in Maine, immediately following the elections. This memo offers Third Way’s analysis of the key findings from that research and lays out our thoughts and initial insights about what may be the best way forward towards achieving relationship recognition and marriage in the future.
Our biggest insight is that the “equality” argument is not connecting with the middle on marriage. Instead, we must show the middle that gay and lesbian couples are seeking to join in the true spirit of how the middle sees marriage. The middle thinks of marriage as an ideal as opposed to a legal construct, and they are not yet persuaded that gay couples fit into this ideal. For the middle, the ideal of marriage is about lifetime commitment, sacrifice, responsibility, and obligation—not rights and benefits. To reach the middle, we need to show respect for the tradition of marriage and demonstrate that gay couples want to undertake the responsibilities that come with it, including making a lifetime commitment to another person.