Wis. ruling shows shift in public opinion on gay marriage - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Wis. ruling shows shift in public opinion on gay marriage

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Friday's federal court ruling overturning Wisconsin's 2006 ban on same sex marriage reflects a national trend of shifting public opinion, according to experts.

Mike Wagner, a political scientist and professor of journalism at the UW-Madison, said the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb is not likely to sway those with strong opinions on the issue.

"When it comes to these kind of moral issues, issues people hold with deep values, it's really hard to change those views," Wagner said.
"I think (the decision) helps turn the tide for people who are ambivalent," he added.

"So if you really weren't sure what your opinion was, you might look to see which way the wind is blowing," Wagner said.

May's Marquette University Law School Political Poll reported 49% of respondents support same sex marriage. The same poll reported 25% of respondents said they support civil unions for same sex couples and 18% opposed both options.

When the civil unions option was eliminated, the poll showed 55% of respondents supported gay marriage and 37% opposed it.

Charles Franklin, the Marquette Law School Poll's Director, appeared on 27 News in the wake of Friday's ruling.

"This is an area where we've seen really sharp changes in public opinion," Franklin said on 27 News at 6 p.m. Friday.

"The ban passed in 2006 by 59% to 41%," he said.

"In the March poll, when we asked how would you vote, 59% said they would repeal the ban," Franklin said. "So almost a complete reversal of opinion."

Franklin said between 75% and 80% of young voters have reported support for gay marriage.

Wagner said the support among youth is also a national trend. He said more young people coming of voting age could solidify the same sex marriage movement in the coming years.

"People wonder, is it possible to turn back the tide the other way? It's not very likely," Wagner said.

"It's very unlikely we're going to hit the reset button on same sex marriage attitudes anytime soon because young people are so in favor of it," Wagner said.

Franklin added the issue remains a politically polarizing one.

"Just one in four Republicans support gay marriage," Franklin said.

"Three in four Democrats support it. About 58% of independents support it," he said.

Dane and Milwaukee Counties began performing same sex marriages shortly after Friday's ruling. In Dane County, 137 marriage licenses had been issued to same sex couples as of Saturday night.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he believes the state's ban on same sex marriage remains in place. He said Friday he will appeal Crabb's ruling.
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