According to a new poll, 50 percent of Southerners support same-sex marriage. Nationwide, gay marriage has a 59 percent acceptance rate. The Washington Post survey comes on the heels of a new public education campaign targeting Southern states.
Launched in February, Southerners for the Freedom to Marry has $1 million budget to grow support for gay marriage in states such as Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia and Oklahoma. Co-chairs include Texan Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.
"Southerners are increasingly on a journey in support of the freedom to marry," said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, in a statement. "At its core, marriage is about love and family — deeply ingrained Southern values."
In addition to majority support for gay marriage, 71 percent of Southern survey respondents said that gay people are just as capable of being good parents as straight people, and 78 percent think businesses should not be allowed to refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation.
Southerners are split about whether or not the U.S. Constitution provides equal protection under the law for gay Americans: 46 percent believe it does, while 45 percent of Southerners say it does not.
"Religious freedom is protected — no church has to marry anyone they don’t want to," Solomon said. "Allowing same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry the person they love is the right thing to do on moral and constitutional grounds."
A federal judge in San Antonio recently overturned a 2005 amendment banning gay marriage in Texas. Judge Orlando Garcia joins a growing number of federal judges in states like Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and, more recently, Virginia who have declared bans on gay marriage are in violation of the United States Constitution.
Currently, gay marriage is legal in 17 states.