Thursday, March 06, 2014

It Is What It Is

New poll data indicates that 50% of Americans believe that the Constitution protects the right to gay marriage (41% disagree). This is of course good news for supporters of gay marriage. I am curious exactly what this figure means, though. Specifically, when non-lawyers hear the question, do they hear "what is the current state of the law with respect to gay marriage being a right under the equal protection clause?" or do they hear "if you were a judge, how would you decide a case arguing that gay marriage is a right under the equal protection clause?"

The question text reads:
Do you think that part of the Constitution providing Americans with equal protection under the law does or does not give gays and lesbians the equal right to marry?
That seems to at least lean toward the latter interpretation (how would you rule as a judge). But of course, that raises the question of how non-legally trained Americans come to a conclusion on that sort of question -- at least assuming that respondents at least profess to believe that there is a difference between one's moral intuitions and legally correct answers. Whether such a distinction actually exists or not, my understanding is there is substantial poll data which indicates that Americans believe this to be true and believe it to be important, so then the question is how they reconcile that belief with coming to legal conclusions when they know they don't have the requisite legal knowledge to "properly" make them.

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