July 18, 2013
The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows that more Virginians are now in favor of gay marriage than oppose it. It represents a dramatic shift from seven years ago, when Virginia voters supported an amendment banning gay marriage, 57 percent to 43 percent.
"I remain surprised just that it's happening so fast," said Amy Marshall, a lesbian with two children. "It's sort of like the lid came off of something."
The poll shows that Virginia women are much more supportive of gay marriage than Virginia men, who still mostly oppose.
"As a mother, you want your kids to be happy and I think there might be more of that kind of acceptance (from women)," Marshall said.
There is also a racial divide. The poll says 51 percent of whites approve of gay marriage, compared to 42 percent of blacks.
"African-Americans tend to be more traditional as it relates to the church," said Rev. Hodari Hamilton, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlottesville. "We tend to affirm traditional marriage. The scriptures are clear for what it is for a man and wife to do in creating a union of marriage."
Hamilton says the change in public opinion will not change his mind.
"I don't mind being a minority," Hamilton said.
The poll shows that the youngest voters, aged 18-29, many of whom were too young to vote when Virginia approved the ban in 2006, overwhelmingly support gay marriage.
Virginia has a more difficult road than most states to repeal its ban.
"In order to get that on the ballot," said Kyle Kondik, with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, "the General Assembly has to vote in two straight sessions to put it on the ballot."
And with a strong Republican majority in the House of Delegates, Kondik says that's not likely to happen soon. However, he says the "sea change" of support for gay marriage is undeniable.
"It's probably coming to most states and it probably will come to Virginia at some point," Kondik said.
Kondik says, business leaders may start to pressure Republicans to lift the gay marriage ban, because gay workers would see it as a perk to come to a state where their marriages are recognized.