Six and a half years ago, on the same day that they sent Sen. George Allen into retirement, Virginia voters passed one of the country's most restrictive gay marriage bans. Question one not only defined marriage; it instructed that the state "shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals," wiping out the possibility of civil unions in a fast-growing, fast-liberalizing state.
Fifty-seven percent of Virginians voted for that. A new poll from the University of Mary Washington Center for Leadership and Media Studies, which tapped 1,004 voters, finds that the support for gay marriage has only slightly nudged up.
Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally in Virginia?
Favor - 45%
Oppose - 46%
Don't know - 5%
Refused - 4%
If SCOTUS doesn't find a constitutional right to gay marriage, states like Virginia can only legalize if they pass new voter-validated amendments. And marriage isn't a majority-making issue yet. Compare this number to the support for a minimum wage hike, which appeared in the state of the union then disappeared from the conversation. That's got 72 percent support.
Poll director Stephen Farnsworth unpacks the numbers:
As a group, African-Americans were most critical of same sex marriage, with 40 percent supporting same-sex marriage legalization and 54 percent opposing it. Hispanic respondents were most supportive, with 64 percent supporting gay marriage and 34 percent opposing. For whites, 50 percent oppose gay marriage and 46 percent support it.