Do Europeans Support Gay Marriage?

Josh Marshall discusses how capital punishment, though banned throughout Europe, is actually consistently supported by percentages comparable to that seen in U.S. polling on the issue. This leads Andrew Sullivan to argue that this is an instance of "civilized" parliamentary independence from public opinion. In other words, certain human rights shouldn't be put to a popular vote:

The difference in Britain is that parliament routinely defies the popular will, as Burke urged them to at times. And because they treat this question - and others, like abortion and gay rights - as matters of personal conscience which political parties should not interfere with. You can call this anti-democratic, but you can also call it civilized.

All this is well and good, and of course Americans have a long historical experience with certain enumerated rights in our constitution (the Bill of Rights comes to mind). However, he slips when he makes the comparison to gay rights. Is it the case, for instance, that in those European nations where same-sex marriage is enshrined in law that a progressive elite has simply acted against majority opinion?

This simply isn't so. The first country to legalize same-sex marriages was the Netherlands, a country known for tolerance and religious liberty going back to the 16th century. Where did the Dutch masses stand on the issue? Well, 62% were in favor of expanding the definition of marriage. In Spain, where gay marriage was legalized in 2005, in the face of Vatican opposition, polling found that a day before the bill passed, 61% of the population supported the measure. Nine months later... support remained the same, and was 62%. Norweigans passed a bill in January 2009 which transitioned the country from having legal gay civil partnerships to full marriage rights. Where did the public stand? 58% supported it, and only 31% stood against this expansion of human liberty. In Sweden, same-sex marriage was just legalized last April. But, not only did a whopping 71% of Swedes support the right before parliament passed it, but even 68% of Lutheran pastors were alright with it!

So, sure, Europeans may agree with us to an extent on capital punishment. But in those countries where gay marriage is legal, strong majorities stand in support of that right.

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