Prop. 8 Heads to Supreme Court, Majority of Americans Support Gay Marriage, Poll Says

California’s controversial Prop. 8 is headed over to the Supremes, where the highest court of the land will examine whether the widely-abhorred legislation squares with the Constitution of the United States after a review Tuesday by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prop. 8 (referred to by those who supported it as the California Marriage Protection Act) passed in November 2008 with a 52 to 48% vote, but a lot has changed in the four years since voters in the largely-liberal bastion of California went out in droves to vote for President Obama and stayed to ensure gay people did not get the same rights as their straight friends.

In fact, there has been something of a sea change in general opinion about gay marriage since Prop. 8 passed. Recent polling suggests that a country that once largely sought to deny gay people the right to marry now is largely sort of okay with it.

A CNN/ORC International Survey released today reveals that Americans on average now support the right of gay people to marry in larger numbers than oppose it. 54% of those surveyed revealed a supportive position, versus 42% of those surveyed, who still oppose gay marriage.

What’s more, 60% of those surveyed revealed that they had a friend or family member who identified as homosexual, up from 49% in 2010. Support for gay marriage was cleanly divided among party lines- with seven of ten liberals opposing legislation like Prop. 8, six in ten independent voters supporting gay rights and 72% of Republicans surveyed still wishing to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

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CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says that the old belief that gay people could change their sexual orientation fading away may be responsible for evolving attitudes about gay marriage:

“Attitudes toward sexual orientation have also changed over that same time period… In 1998, a majority believed that someone who is gay or lesbian could change their sexual orientation if they choose to do so. Today, only a third feel that way, and the number who say that gays and lesbians cannot change their orientation is almost six in ten. Those shifts probably explain the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.”

Prop. 8 faces a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, but the dated Defense of Marriage Act was overturned last week, so the timing may be very good for gay Californians.