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Minnesotans are evenly divided on same-sex marriage about a month after state leaders legalized such nuptials, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.
The poll shows that 46 percent of Minnesotans support legislators’ efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, while 44 percent are opposed. Another 10 percent remain undecided.
Factoring in the margin of error, the results show that Minnesotans remain deeply and evenly divided over an issue that has gripped the state for two years.
Supporters are encouraged by a shift toward acceptance of same-sex marriage since a similar poll in late February, when only 38 percent thought legislators should change the law to allow such unions.
“More and more Minnesotans are coming to the realization that limiting the freedom to marry doesn’t agree with the core values of the state,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United, the group that led the lobbying effort to legalize same-sex marriage. “That’s only going to continue to grow over the next year and the next 10 years.”
Minnesota is in the midst of a profound and rapid political transformation on the issue. Two years ago, Republicans who controlled the Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Voters defeated the measure, voted out numerous Republican lawmakers and handed DFLers full control at the Capitol. In a dramatic turn, Democrats last month made Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian couples can begin marrying in Minnesota Aug. 1.
Opponents of same-sex marriage say the poll reaffirms their core belief that most Minnesotans do not believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to wed.
“The majority of the state was not behind it,” said Autumn Leva, a spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, the lead group trying to block same-sex marriage. “This was a push by a few same-sex marriage lobbyists and a lot of money to press through something that was not the will of the people at all.”
The poll sampled 800 Minnesota adults June 11-13, by land line and cellphone. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The sample included 36 percent self-identified Democrats, 30 percent Republicans and 29 percent independents.
The Twin Cities continued to be the strongest hub of support for same-sex marriage.
Sixty-six percent of those in Hennepin and Ramsey counties support lawmakers’ action. Just 22 percent of respondents in those counties opposed the decision.
Residents in Twin Cities suburbs and outstate Minnesota strongly oppose the new marriage law.
In the suburbs, 53 percent oppose the change and 37 percent say lawmakers made the right decision. Outstate, opposition is slightly stronger, with 54 percent saying they don’t think gay and lesbians should be allowed to marry.
“I’m not happy with it. I don’t agree with it,” said Hinckley resident Jessie Kordiak.
Kordiak worries what effect legalization of same-sex marriage will have on the state, particularly in the schools.
“I don’t know, maybe now polygamy should be legal. Where do we draw the line? First cousins? Second cousins? I think it opens up a whole can of worms,” he said. “I have a feeling that now the schools are going to promote it and start teaching it to our kids. I just think there are a lot of things they didn’t really think through.”
Age is another significant fault line, with support for same-sex marriage strongest among the youngest voters.
Sixty percent of voters under 35 support legislators’ efforts on same-sex marriage, with 30 percent saying legislators made the wrong decision.
Opposition has softened among older residents in the past several months, the poll found.
The strongest opposition comes from those ages 50 to 64. Of that group, more than half — 53 percent — oppose same-sex marriage, while 41 percent favor it.
In February, opposition from that group reached 68 percent.
“I was tickled. I was just delighted,” said David Abrams of Minnetonka. “There are a lot of people I’m really proud to know right now.”
Abrams volunteered for the campaign to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment after a friend urged him to join the effort.
The friend told Abrams that she eventually wanted to marry her longtime partner.
“Her argument was, ‘What are you going to tell your grandchildren? What will you say you were doing at this point in history?’ ” he said.
Now, he said, the couple are making plans for their wedding. “I’m so excited for them.”
Women have historically been the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage.
The poll found that 57 percent of women agree with the state’s new law, while 34 percent are against it.
Among men, 55 percent oppose same-sex marriage and 34 support it.
Party affiliation is the strongest divider on the issue.
An overwhelming 78 percent of Democrats support the legalization of same-sex marriage, while an equally strong 76 percent of Republicans oppose it.
A shift among independents is among the most dramatic changes since the February sampling.
Support for same-sex marriage among independents has climbed to 43 percent, from 30 percent in February.
Opposition among independents sits at 40 percent, down from 62 percent four months ago.
In that period, support also strengthened among Democrats, Twin Cities residents and those making more than $50,000 a year. Now, 54 percent of those making more than $50,000 support legislators’ efforts for same-sex marriage. Opposition among those who make less than $50,000 has been consistently at 50 percent or higher.
Since the legislative session started in January, Minnesotans United poured more than $2 million into its lobbying effort. As legislators worked through the budget and other issues, same-sex marriage supporters pounded legislators with calls, letters and e-mails and even launched statewide television advertising.
Leva said the poll highlights that the same-sex marriage issue is driven largely by Twin Cities Democrats who are out of touch with the rest of the state.
“There’s a lot of people in the state, in outstate and suburban areas, who are not happy about this,” she said. “We’ll see what they have to say in the next election about what’s important to them.”
But Carlbom said the poll highlights that Minnesotans are not only “growing more accepting of same-sex marriage, they are growing more supportive.”
Staff writer Jennifer Brooks contributed to this report.