New poll in Illinois shows growth in support for the freedom to marry

A new poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University finds that support for the freedom to marry among people in Illinois has grown significantly over the past two years. The institute's data shows that 43.6 percent of respondents said they support marriage for same-sex couples, while 31.8 percent said they support civil union for same-sex couples. Only 20.2 percent of people said they believe that same-sex couples should not have any access to any form of legal recognition or family status. This data is a significant jump from 2010, when the institute found that 33.6 percent of people supported marriage for all couples, and 26.5 percent said same-sex relationships should not be legally respected.

The Chicago Phoenix spoke about the poll with Rep. Greg Harris, a longtime supporter of the freedom to marry. Harris said:

I think the numbers show striking shifts in public opinion. The data shows that this is not undecided voters making up their minds, but rather previous opponents shifting their positions on long held beliefs. I think as people learn about the issue they are seeing it as matter of basic fairness. And as they know more LGBT couples, they understand how important helping and strengthening all families is. 

Currently, same-sex couples in Illinois are permitted to join together in civil union, and in the past year, 5,000 couples have seen their relationships recognized by the state in this capacity. Civil unions offer some - but not all - of the protections that marriage affords, and this year, even couples with civil unions have seen their relationships misunderstood, disrespected, and treated as something significantly less than marriage. Despite the legal and economic benefits that civil unions afford, only the freedom to marry can truly protect all same-sex couples and their families. 

The polling in Illlinois is evidence that each and every day, Americans are taking the time to consider why the freedom to marry is so important. It is clear that as momentum builds for the freedom to marry nationwide, people are stepping back to scrutinize their own views on marriage. Clearly, a record number of Americans are coming to the conclusion that by supporting marriage for all couples, they are supporting their friends, family members, and neighbors.

We must continue to actively engage diverse cross-sections of the population in conversations about why marriage matters to same-sex couples and their families. By investing time and money in the marriage campaign, we can more fully develop a national climate for victory, where the freedom to marry for all is a reality.

Read more about the freedom to marry in Illinois.