At the center of the argument in the 136-page ruling that Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker issued overturning Proposition 8 was the argument that “moral and religious views” alone are not a “rational basis” to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in California. A new major public opinion survey conducted by our firm, Public Religion Research Institute, provides a new look at the shifting climate of public opinion in California and the moral and religious motivations of those who supported and opposed the measure.
Although supporters of Proposition 8 are already working to appeal the ruling through the federal courts, there is evidence that if the issue reappeared on the ballot today, it would not pass. The PRRI survey found that a majority (51%) of Californians now say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 45% who say they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal.
Moreover, two years after its passage, only about 1-in-5 (22%) Californians believe that the passage of Proposition 8 was a good thing for the state. Most Californians believe Proposition 8 was either a bad thing for California (29%) or believe it has not made any difference (45%). Even among religious groups most supportive of Proposition 8—white evangelical Protestants and Latino Protestants—significantly less than half (only 41% and 34% respectively) report that the passage of Proposition 8 was a good thing for California.