The New Jersey state senate will not vote on the gay marriage bill on Thursday, December 10th as previously announced. Instead, the bill will be pushed back into the state assembly’s judiciary committee. The state senators who sponsored the bill stated they believed there would be a vote on it sometime in January. The speculation is that there weren’t enough votes in the senate to pass the bill at this point in time.
This delay comes on the heels of a Quinnipiac University poll showing that the gay marriage movement is losing support with NJ voters. New Jersey voters now oppose gay marriage by a 49 to 46% margin. Yet, back in April of this year, New Jersey voters supported gay marriage by a 49 to 43% margin.
So what’s gong on? Why the swing? I think two phenomena come into play here. One has to do with the dynamics of polling. Some straight voters may be reluctant to admit to the pollsters that they’re against gay marriage. It’s what the poll people call slippage. Voters can get cagey when asked for opinions on major issues of public debate. Sometimes they simply lie to pollsters; other times they shoot from the hip and give their true opinion regardless of how it may be perceived by the poll taker.
But the swing in the polls can also be traced to the moderate voter. There is a swath of middle-of-the-road Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who struggle with the issue of lesbian/gay marriage. Although they may have an overall live-and-let-live approach to social issues, these fence sitters are not wholeheartedly marching behind the gay marriage bandwagon. Although supportive of civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, many moderate voters are ambivalent when it comes to extending the marriage bond to homosexual citizens. Unsure of the rightness of placing gay and lesbian marriage on a par with heterosexual wedlock, yet wishing to be tolerant, these folks vacillate.
After defeats in Maine and New York and now possibly New Jersey, where do we go from here?
I’ll be posting some of my thoughts on this topic later.