Two years ago, we analyzed a Pew survey of public opinion on same-sex marriage, which illustrated the rapid shift in Americans' views on the subject. In 2007, voters opposed the practice by roughly 20 points; by 2017, the numbers had more than reversed, flipping to (62/32) in favor. The same poll found a 52-point swing among self-identified Republicans within the previous decade, with support and opposition to same-sex marriage falling into a dead even tie among GOP voters -- a far cry from the lopsided (20/73) margin that existed in 2007. In spite of this sea change within their segment of the electorate, the Republican Party's platform has not even budged toward inclusion, with a case to be made that it has moved in the opposite direction. With Donald Trump as president, however, one wonders if that might change.
Trump has already signaled that he was comfortable with the outcome of the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide, stating that he was "fine with" the ruling's outcome. In a new interview with Fox News airing this weekend, host Steve Hilton asked Trump about Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg's relationship with his husband. Isn't the two of them appearing on stage together at rallies a sign of progress? The president's response:
HILTON: Don't you think it's just great to the fact see the fact that you've got a guy there, on the stage, with his husband -- and it's normal?
TRUMP: I think it's absolutely fine, I do.
HILTON: But isn't it a sign of great progress in the country...?
TRUMP: Yeah, I think it's great. I think it's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it's good.
This isn't necessarily a full-fledged endorsement of same-sex marriage per se, as Trump didn't quite address the public policy question, but it was a statement of affirmative support for the cultural progress of normalized, codified same-sex relationships. That is inarguably significant, especially coming from a Republican president. As I told the New York Times magazine earlier this year, the Trump administration's record on LGBT rights has been a very mixed bag. Advocates on those issues certainly have some major targets for criticism. But it's also short-sighted to ignore evidence on the other side of the ledger: Peter Thiel's groundbreaking speech at the 2016 RNC, candidate Trump's support for Caitlyn Jenner during a mid-campaign transgender bathroom controversy, the historic appointment of Richard Grenell as US ambassador to Germany, the administration's global campaign against the criminalization of homosexuality, its new efforts on making HIV-preventing drugs more widely available, and now the president's comments on Buttigieg.
No matter one's partisan affiliation or views on any of these issues, it's simply undeniable that Trump is the most pro-LGBT Republican president ever to hold office. That's a relative judgment, I'll underscore, but it's true. And I'd argue that it matters when it comes to moving the Overton window of political and cultural mores on the center-right, given Trump's overwhelming support among Republican voters. Might the party's platform look even slightly different on this front in 2020? It's clear that LGBT-related planks of past platforms are incompatible with the president's actual views, as well as the sentiments of (at least) half of the GOP's voters. A modernization, acknowledging increasingly diverse opinions on these matters, is in order.
As for another cultural policy battle, many Americans are debating the new (legally doomed) Alabama law banning virtually all abortions. As I've stated on social media, as a pro-lifer who has been horrified by the radical pro-abortion laws being implemented in various blue states, I think Alabama's law goes too far, to the point of being counter-productive. Some pro-lifers agree with my more incrementalist approach, while others do not. What's undeniable is the media's bias on this issue set, as well as many abortion advocates' unwillingness to engage the pro-life position in an intellectually or even scientifically honest way:
This polling roundup shows how messy public opinion on abortion is -- and how out-of-step measures like the New York and Alabama laws are with the American people:
The maps on the left show that question wording can make a huge difference in how people respond. The maps on the right demonstrate that significant restrictions are widely supported, even in very liberal states, while outright bans are universally rejected. The Alabama law isn't quite a no-exceptions prohibition, but it's close. And the recent spate of blue state abortion laws embrace a form of extremism at the other end of the spectrum that is highly offensive to most voters. Public opinion isn't automatically a meaningful arbiter of ethics or morality, of course, but such factors matter greatly in the realm of electoral politics. If the goal is to make progress on the life issue, including making additional headway on the crucial task of winning hearts and minds, pro-life politicians are on much steadier ground favoring restrictions on elective abortions after the midway point of a pregnancy than they are pushing for bills like the legislation out of Alabama.