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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State

Activities during 2011-APRIL & MAY

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2011-APR-06: Sienna College Research Institute completes poll of registered voters on SSM:

The Institute sampled 777 New York state registered voters. Results have a margin of error of ~+mn~3.5%.

Population group
Support SSM
Oppose SSM
Don't know/no answer
All voters
18-34 years-of-age
Roman Catholic
Other faith/none

The results showed unusually high support for SSM that broke many records in comparison with other state and national polls:

  • A 22% margin of support among all voters; this is the difference in percentage points.
  • A 30% margin for Whites.
  • A majority support by Blacks.
  • 59% support among Roman Catholics -- the highest of any organized religious group -- showed a massive rejection of the teachings of the Catholic hierarchy.
  • 74% support by young adults. 1
These results caused David Badash, a writer for The New Civil Rights Movement, to ask the question: "Is There Anyone Left In New York Who Does Not Support Same Sex Marriage?" 2

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Note to public opinion pollsters on how to produce a biased poll by obscuring support for same-sex marriage:

The above poll must be very depressing for those who are opposed to equal access to marriage for all loving committed couples: 58% overall support for SSM vs. 36% opposition is rather overwhelming. But there is a way to bias a poll design so that less support is shown for SSM: by introducing multiple alternatives.

All one has to do is to ask the subjects for their preferred method of the state recognizing loving, committed same-sex relationships, and then giving, perhaps, six alternatives:

  • Same-sex marriage,
  • "Registered partnerships" with all of the benefits of marriage,
  • "Registered partnerships" with many of the benefits of marriage,
  • "Registered partnerships" with only a few of the benefits of marriage,
  • "Registered partnerships" with only hospital visitation privileges, and partner health care benefits,
  • No recognition at all.

The last option would treat loving committed same-sex couples as room mates and their children as illegitimate. However, this need not be mentioned because if the subjects realized the implication of the "roommate" option, support for SSM or for the registered partnership options might increase.

By giving each subject many choices, there is the possibility that the results would show that less than 50% of New Yorkers prefer the SSM option. Then, an unscrupulous advocacy group could proudly report that "Most New Yorkers do not support SSM."

Another really good way to bias results is to use proper timing. By calling people at home only using landlines and during normal working hours -- say between 9 AM and 4 PM, one would sample the opinion of many older retired folks, who tend to be much more opposed to equal rights for LGBTs.

Finally, one can lower support for SSMs by asking one or more questions before asking them a question about SSMs. Examples are:

  • Should marriage only be between a man and a woman?
  • Do you favor increased jail sentences for convicted child molesters?
  • Do you favor increased jail sentences for convicted drug dealers?

Once the subject has been set up by perhaps getting them to commit to limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples and raising their "fear of the other", then ask them a question about SSM.

To our knowledge, no such poll has been taken. However, the Marist Poll described below is a major step in this direction.

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2011-APR-29: Senior CEOs send letter to legislators promoting SSM:

Twenty-six CEOs from New York companies, including that of Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan's Investment Bank, Morgan Stanley, Bloomberg L.P., Con Edison, and Thompson Reuters wrote a letter to the state legislature in support of SSM. It was titled: "An open letter from business leaders on the importance of marriage equality."

The letter said:

"New York has rich resources that position our state for continued success in the 21 st century -– a leading financial center, strong industry clusters, and renowned educational, research, and cultural institutions. But major employers know that the single greatest asset New York has to offer is its ability to attract the best talent from around the world. This is crucial, because the size, quality and diversity of the talent pool are the first criteria for business in determining where to locate jobs.

To remain competitive, New York must continue to contend with other world cities to attract top talent. Increasingly, in an age where talent determines the economic winners, great states and cities must demonstrate a commitment to creating an open, healthy and equitable environment in which to live and work.

This is why it is so important that New York State grant full rights to all of its citizens by passing marriage equality. As other states, cities and countries across the world extend marriage rights regardless of sexual orientation, it will become increasingly difficult to recruit the best talent if New York cannot offer the same benefits and protections.

Many employers have adopted non-discrimination policies and extended domestic partner benefits long before most cities and states passed them into law. As New Yorkers and business leaders, we believe that attracting talent is key to our state’s economic future. We strongly urge New York State to enact marriage equality legislation to help maintain our competitive advantage in attracting the best and brightest people the world has to offer and to reaffirm our commitment to both freedom and fairness." 3

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2011-MAY-12: Marist poll indicates most New York adults do not prefer SSM:

The Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College is a Roman Catholic liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie NY. Their poll was conducted between 2011-APR 25 and 29. 4 It differs from the Sienna College Research Institute poll described above in two major ways:

  • They asked their polling subjects for their preferred definition of marriage. This would probably have the effect to committing many subjects to be opposed to SSM, and thus setting them up for the next question.

  • They asked them for their preferred way of handling same-sex couples: legalizing same-sex marriage, creating civil unions, or have no recognition at all. In the last case, loving, committed same-sex couples would only be regarded as roommates without any protections and rights for their partnership or for their children. By allowing three answers, the pollsters were measuring preference for the three options not support for same-sex marriage.

Only 502 adults were surveyed on the latter question; the margin of error is ~+mn~4.5 percentage points. They reported the expected differences between  Democrats, Republicans and Independents, between upstate and New York City residents, men and women, etc.

They reported that 52% of the people polled had an income of $50,000 or more, only 57% were white, 57% were 45 years-of-age or older, 32% were not employed, 63% owned their own home. Their sampling does not appear to be a random collection of New Yorkers.

Most registered voters (51%) and most adults (53%) believed "that marriage should only be between a man and woman."

Even with the addition of the civil unions option, majorities of 51% of registered voters and 50% of all adults preferred that "Gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry." 28% of registered voters and 25% of all voters preferred that civil unions be made available. 21% of registered voters and 25% of all adults preferred no recognition.

In summary, only 21% of registered voters and 25% of all adults favor the current system where loving committed same-sex couples cannot marry or enter into a civil union. This is an overwhelming mandate for change.

The pollsters could have, but didn't, reduce the apparent support for SSM in two other ways:

  • By dropping the reference to "gay or lesbian couples" and replacing the phrase with "homosexual couples." The latter term carries more negative emotional baggage than does the former.

  • Their survey showed that of the subjects who preferred the SSM option, 58% were accessed by cell phone; 47% by landline. Those who preferred the civil union option, only 18% were accessed by cell phone, compared with 28% by landline. If they interviewed only using landline telephones, there would be much more preference given for civil unions and less for SSM.

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National Organization for Marriage (NOM) ramps up effort in New York state:

NOM is the main national group in the U.S. that opposes allowing same-sex couples from marrying.

On 2011-MAY-12, they announced as breaking news: "New Poll Shows Majority of New Yorkers Reject SSM" 5

They said: "According to this NY1/YNN-Marist Poll, a majority of adults in New York " 53% " say marriage should only be between a man and a woman. 46% do not agree with that definition, and 2% are unsure."

Two of the four readers' comments made to the NOM news article were particularly interesting -- one because it is amusing, and the other because it may sadly indicate the level of "fear of the other" in the U.S. today:

  • Posting by equal2you: "Only NOM can look at a poll showing 79% support for gay Americans and their families and still say that their 21% is a majority on their side. lol"

  • Posting by Mike Brooks: "The only poll that tells the truth is the voting booth. I would never tell a pollster my opinion on gay marriage; I don't need homosexual radicals coming after me and my family because of my views. And you can bet that there are plenty like me out there. These polls are crap."

We do not recall a single instance where a person telling a pollster their opinion on LGBT rights was ever attacked by anyone in the LGBT communities.

On the morning of 2011-MAY-13, We posted a comment of our own to the NOM announcement. It said:

  • Bruce Robinson: "The Marist poll is not intended to indicate support/opposition to SSM.

    The Sienna College Research Inst. poll directly measures this factor, and indicates 58% support of vs. 36% opposition to SSM by NYS voters. 58% support among Catholics; 74% among those 18 to 34 years-of-age! See:

The posting is currently "awaiting moderation." It is now a month later, and we have given up hope that it might be released.

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National Organization for Marriage invests heavily in anti-SSM advertising in New York State:

They are investing $500,000 to fund the following TV advertisement:

They also plan to invest $1 million to oppose any Republican state candidate who will vote to "redefine marriage" and to support any Democratic candidate who will vote to "defend the traditional definition of marriage" -- i.e. to continue to exclude loving, committed same-sex couples from being able to marry. They didn't mention what they would do for candidates who support civil unions. 6

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Q 19: Making same sex marriage legal in New York State," Page 4, Siena College Research Institute, 2011-APR-04/06, at:
  2. David Badash, "Is There Anyone Left In New York Who Does Not Support Same Sex Marriage?," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2011-APR-11, at:
  3. "An Open Letter from Business Leaders on The Importance of Marriage Equality," Scribd., 2011-APR-29, at
  4. "NY1/YNN-Marist Poll" NYS residents divide over same-sex marriage," Marist College, 2011-MAY-11, at:
  5. "Breaking News: New Poll Shows Majority of New Yorkers Reject SSM," National Organization for Marriage, 2011-MAY-12, at:
  6. "National Organization for Marriage Launches $500,000 Ad Campaign in New York; Pledges $1 Million in 2012 Elections, NOM, 2011-MAY-10, at:

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 Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > NY > here

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Copyright 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-APR
Latest update: 2011-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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