Twenty-nine states have constitutional
amendments defining marriage as a heterosexual union, but voters in
as few as two would absolutely approve one today, according
to new analysis published in The New York Times on Tuesday.
Statistician Nate Silver's predictions
on the percentage of the vote such a ballot initiative would receive
is based on 34 nationwide ballot initiatives.
Silver works the numbers from several
angles; looking at amendments that ban all forms of recognition and
those that only seek to ban gay marriage, and applying different
rates of increasing approval for gay and lesbian unions.
In one of the four models – an
amendment that bans all forms of recognition coupled with an
accelerated rate of acceptance for gay unions – only voters in two
states, Alabama (61.3%) and Mississippi (65.7%), would definitely
approve a ballot initiative in 2012. Such an initiative is also
favored to win in another 13 states, including Utah (50.2%), Kansas
(51.2%), West Virginia (51.7%), Texas (52.5%), North Dakota (52.7%),
Kentucky (53%), North Carolina (53.5%), Georgia (53.6%), Oklahoma
(56.1%), Arkansas (58.2%), South Carolina (58.7%), Tennessee (58.7%),
That is, thirty-three states plus the
District of Columbia would likely reject such a ballot initiative in
That number, however, plummets to 15
when a more modest linear rate of approval is applied and the
amendment only bans gay marriage.
For the record, Silver writes that the
accelerated model “most accurately reflects current sentiment about
The two states where voters are likely
to see such a question next year fare very differently.
A proposed amendment in Minnesota,
which only seeks to ban gay marriage, would likely fail under the
accelerated rate but likely pass under the linear rate. However,
both models predict likely passage for an anticipated amendment in
North Carolina, which is expected to bar all forms of recognition.
Silver concludes: “The future of
same-sex marriage looks to be reasonably bright. Most of the states
that were fertile ground for passing a constitutional ban on it did
so long ago. Minnesota and North Carolina are potential exceptions,
but the six states that have gender-neutral marriage laws on the
books now are unlikely to see them reversed, while some of those that
don't are in a position for gay rights advocates to go on offense.”
We would add that the outlook for a
federal amendment banning gay marriage looks rather dim.