The numbers break down along religious and secular lines, with religious believers who oppose same-sex marriage supporting a constitutional amendment by a large margin and secularists, who favor "gay rights," opposing an amendment by not as wide a margin. Under 30s and "those who know gay people" are most supportive of allowing them to marry, according to the poll.
This ought to be good news for social conservatives. But infighting among members of various conservative religious and political organizations threatens to frustrate the effort to win passage of an amendment. At several recent meetings in the Washington area attended by leaders of social conservative groups, there were disagreements over the wording of the amendment and doubt about whether Congress would pass it.
The debate divides those who believe the amendment should outlaw "civil unions" and those who think both traditional marriage and civil unions can coexist.
One group of social conservatives prefers language contained in a Nebraska law: "Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in the United States. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in the United States."
One of the conservatives who attended the Washington meetings, which, he says, included a strategy session at the White House, says his group is working on language similar to Nebraska: "Marriage in the United States shall consist of the union of a man and a woman. Neither the United States nor any state shall grant or recognize the legal status of a spouse to any person in a relationship other than marriage."
Most people would probably be happy to launch a counter strike in the culture war. Many could be counted on to support an amendment that tries to do something about the social, moral and cultural erosion over which they have felt powerless. Surrounded by bad television, worse movies, anti-religious attitudes of judges and certain liberal activist groups, a pervasive sense that "anything goes," most of those responding to the New York Times/CBS News Poll apparently find a constitutional amendment in support of marriage a much-needed line in the sand. They think we have already gone too far, too fast on too many things.
If conservative groups fail to rally around marriage as a core value of our society and nation, there will be little left for them to stand on when activist groups try to remove the few remaining foundational principles of our nation. And they will try.
Marriage has traditionally been a fundamental building block of all stable societies. When it is undermined--whether by heterosexuals or homosexuals--societies crumble.
People have many rights in our nation, including the right of consenting adults to live together. They do not have the right to demand society approve of any and every relationship and provide benefits reserved for married heterosexuals. A constitutional amendment defining marriage in the traditional way is worth fighting for. With public opinion on their side, conservatives and their unlikely allies should settle for nothing less.