Jim, like Andrew I think there was considerable wisdom in your post. (Four years ago I argued for a constitutional amendment that would leave the question of same-sex marriage and civil unions to state legislatures.) I do have a few quibbles, though. Two concern this passage: “Americans have a healthy aversion to telling other people how to live. Only about 30 percent of Americans support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.”
First, while you are certainly correct to suggest that Americans do not in principle like bossing one another around and that this sentiment has played a role in the marriage debate, I do not think it is quite right to suggest that a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage would tell people “how to live.” It’s not like a ban on sodomy, for example, or on unmarried people’s setting up house together. Second, I don’t think that poll is well constructed. It seems to offer three choices: for gay marriage, against it but not willing to amend the Constitution over it, and for an amendment. That list of options is bound to increase support for the middle option. An up-or-down question on the amendment would be a better gauge of opinion on it. Gallup, a few days ago, found a tiny 49-48 plurality for the amendment. That is well short of the supermajority that is practically required to pass an amendment, so your political-strategy point still stands, but I think those Gallup numbers are a better measure of where opinion is right now.