February 17, 2004

AN INTERESTING DATUM: My Constitutional Law class today was devoted to gay marriage -- following up on yesterday's treatment of the Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas sodomy cases, I assigned the Vermont and Massachusetts gay marriage cases. At the beginning of class I asked for a show of hands on whether gay marriage would be generally available within ten years. The answer, almost unanimously, was "yes."

I don't know how valuable this is as a predictor of what will happen, but it's an interesting indication of what people think will happen.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer emails:

Since 60% of the population disapproves, I suspect that what your class thinks will be the law reflects either their belief that judges take precedence over majority rule (which is actually the case), or their hopes and aspirations. Even among young people, there isn't overwhelming support for gay marriage--and I would suspect that many of those young people, as they age, will become quite a bit more conservative on this subject--just as I have done.

Well, I asked people what they expected, not what they wanted. I'm pretty sure my students are more supportive of gay marriage than the general population, though I don't know how they stack up against law students, or twentysomethings, generally. But I'm very much aware that gay marriage does worse in the opinion polls than it does in elite opinion. (Or mine!) What I'm not sure about, though, is the intensity of that opposition. If it's intense, this will be a big election issue. If it's not, it won't. So far, it's not looking that intense -- but it's early yet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the poll, reader Jim Chandler emails: "Perhaps they simply wanted to agree with your stand on the subject, for obvious reasons."

Well, I suppose that's possible, though I don't see any particular tendency of students to tell me what they think I want to hear (our grading is anonymous, which reduces the rewards of sucking up), and I actually wound up defending Scalia's point (in Lawrence) that legislatures don't have to carry their positions to their logical conclusions, as courts do.