photo © 2008 Kristin Ausk | more info (via: Wylio)
An independent Quinnipiac (KIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll in January 2009 found a solid majority of Floridians (55 percent) opposing the state law that had long prevented gays and lesbians from adopting children in Florida. Now that an appellate court has declared the law unconstitutional, why would legislators and others even consider trying to reinstate it, given a majority in opposition?
Here’s one possibility: Social issues drive segments of voters to the polls to vote a certain way, while others will consider a variety of factors when choosing a candidate. Gay rights issues such as marriage and other hot-button topics such as abortion propel voters to the polls. The gay marriage issue was successfully used by Republicans in the 2004 presidential race, for example.
Incumbents always have an advantage in a re-election bid, and the Florida Legislature is dominated by Republicans. While an overall majority of Florida voters in the Quinnipiac survey were against the 1977 law, Republicans supported it 52 to 43 percent.
Older voters were also more likely to support the law, the survey found. Forty-two percent of those 55 and older said gays and lesbians should not be allowed to adopt, while only 31 percent of those 18 to 34 years old agreed to maintain the status quo. Look at data in any state, and you’ll find older citizens are much more likely to vote than younger ones. And, of course, Florida has plenty of older voters.
Gay rights issues see slow progress
Quite frankly, politicians are afraid to upset any voter. Witness how long it took for Congress to overturn the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law, even though numerous polls and surveys for years found majorities of Americans in favor of doing so. In fact, that support has been stronger than any other gay rights issue.
While the fight for civil rights for African-Americans was quite frankly a black and white issue, gay rights are more of a gray area for the general public. There is an ambivalence among many citizens who are neither progressive liberals nor social conservatives. A future posting will look at an academic paper that examined this factor.