In New England, just two of the six states do not yet have marriage equality - Maine, where gay marriage was passed by the legislature before being disappointingly overturned, and Rhode Island. I would expect that to change next year, after a new governor is elected in November.
The two factors most commonly quoted as reasons for the failure to secure gay marriage have been the implacable opposition of the current governor Don Carcieri, and the high proportion of Catholic voters. (At 46%, this is the highest in the US). However, a new state level poll confirms what has become apparent at the national level. Support for marriage equality has grown, local Catholics support gay marriage - and support has grown faster among Catholics than among other groups.
It shows, for the first time, a convincing majority of Rhode Island voters supporting equality,” said David Walker, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, D.C., that conducted the poll in July.
“Marriage equality is inevitable,” Walker said. “The question is not whether, but when.”
The trend mirrors that at the national level, Walker said, pointing to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released last week that found that 52 percent of respondents favored same-sex marriages.
The poll, with a sample size of 500 registered voters and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, found overall support for same-sex marriage in Rhode Island had grown 10 points since 2008 while opposition dropped 6 points.
The increase among those who identified themselves as Roman Catholic was higher, at 12 points.
When pollsters clarified the question pertained to civil marriages and that church and state would remain separate, 66 percent said they would favor legalizing same-sex marriage, with 28 percent saying they opposed it. Among those who identified themselves as Catholics, 63 percent said they would favor it, 32 percent said they oppose it.
There are effectively twice as many Catholics who support equality, as those who oppose it - providing their are suitable assurances that it applies only to civil marriage, and on the separation of church and state. Bishop Tobin is on a losing battle.
Politicians are addicted to reading the public mood. With two thirds of Rhode Islanders now saying they approve of legal recognition of same sex marriages, and a convincing majority of Catholics agreeing, the will be very few state legislators next year who would want to resume their previous opposition- and the smoke screen that so many of the voters are Catholic will be blown away by the knowledge that local Catholics seem to put Catholic commitment to justice ahead of blind obedience to Bishops and patently flawed Vatican body theology.
I am confident that some time next year, New England campaigners will reach number five in their "six by twelve" strategy". When will Maine complete the set, by reversing Prop 1?
(If current grass-roots efforts to boot the NY state senators who voted against equality this year are successful, and prospects at this stage seem promising, New York senators could likewise have a sudden change of heart, and bring equality to New York State too. Watch for the outcome of Dem primary elections early next month. If some of the opponents of equality lose, that will send a clear signal to the others. That will be time to start checking the betting odds. If a couple of GOP senators then fall to Dem challengers in November - a distinct possibility, even in this difficult cycle for Democrats- go place your bets on marriage equality for New York.)Also see related posts at Queering the Church: Growing Catholic Acceptance of Gay Relationships, LGBT Equality Why Catholics Support Gay Marriage Catholics Support Gay Adoption What (European) Catholics Believe