Voters favor federal benefits to married same-sex couples Marriage ranks last on priority list
Washington - American voters oppose the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - the law that forbids the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples - as well as efforts by the House Republican leadership to intervene in court cases defending the law, according to new polling released today by the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. This poll is the first in a series of quarterly surveys from HRC and GQRR that will analyze public opinion on critical lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
Overall, voters say they oppose the Defense of Marriage Act - 51 percent oppose the law and 34 percent favor it. Independent voters, who were instrumental in the Republican House takeover, oppose this law by a 52 percent to 34 percent margin. Additionally when read statements for and against defending the law in court, 54 percent of voters oppose the House Republicans' intervention, while only 32 percent support it. Poll results are available at www.hrc.org/DOMApoll2011.
DOMA prohibits the federal government from granting married same-sex couples things like Social Security survivor benefits, health insurance for federal employees' spouses, joint tax filing, family and medical leave and other critical protections. When asked if they favor or oppose some of these benefits for gay and lesbian couples who have been legally married, voters responded: on Social Security survivor benefits, 60 favor, 34 oppose on federal employee health benefits for spouses, 58 percent favor, 36 percent oppose on protecting spouses from losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies or death, 64 percent favor, 28 percent oppose and on avoiding tax penalties by filing joint tax returns as a married couple, 55 percent favor, 38 percent oppose.
"The debate over DOMA isn't about whether you favor marriage equality, it's about whether the government can pick and choose which marriages they like, and which they don't," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "With five states and DC granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it's time the federal government stop playing favorites and instead create an equal playing field for all families."
On Wednesday, leaders in the House and Senate will introduce the "Respect for Marriage Act" - a bill to repeal DOMA and open up the benefits, protections and obligations of marriage under federal law to same-sex couples legally married in states that have ended their exclusion from marriage.
Last Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would intervene to defend DOMA in court, following a Justice Department announcement that the administration believes the law to be unconstitutional. At least nine cases are challenging DOMA spanning three appellate courts and four district courts in six states. The Speaker's announcement did not make clear if they will intervene in all of the cases, who will represent the House, how much the defense will cost, what their arguments for the law will be or other critical issues. More background on DOMA and the unanswered questions is at www.hrc.org/DOMApoll2011.
"When it comes to defending DOMA, House Republicans are wrong on the policy and wrong on the politics," said Solmonese. "It's mind boggling that Republican leaders would so misread the tea leaves in their urgent effort to score some cheap and temporary political points."
Given a list of issues important in determining their vote for President, voters ranked the economy and jobs (54 percent), Medicare and Social Security (23 percent) and education (19 percent) as most important with only 5 percent of respondents saying "gay marriage" was most important to them.
The poll also shows a plurality of voters disapprove of the way the Republicans are handling their job in charge of the House of Representatives: 42 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove. When asked how the Republican majority is handling voters' most important issue - jobs - 80 percent have a negative response while only 15 percent say they're doing a good or excellent job.
"Americans are clamoring for Congress to deal with jobs and the economy," said Solmonese. "This new poll shows that House Republican leaders take their eye off the economic ball at their own peril."
The telephone survey, including cell phones, was conducted 3/8/11 through 3/10/11 among 800 registered voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percent. The results of the poll, including the questionnaire, a memo on the findings and charts, are available at: www.hrc.org/DOMApoll2011.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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