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NEWS ANALYSIS: Marriage-equality legislators win elections overwhelmingly

WASHINGTON – Freedom to Marry and Third Way released a memo today showing that state legislators who vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples overwhelmingly win voter support when running for re-election.

Based on election results in the two states that passed freedom to marry laws in the 2011-12 legislative cycle and whose members stood for re-election — New York and Washington — the analysis, “Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections,” finds that pro-marriage legislators who ran for reelection won 97% of the time. This is significantly higher than the national incumbent re-election average of 90% in 2012.

“Polls have shown that a growing majority of Americans support ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage – and now we know that Americans vote that way at the polls, too,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.

"Lawmakers who cast votes for the freedom to marry get voted back in – and on both side of the aisle. Elected officials can vote for the freedom to marry and be on the right side of history, secure that supporting the freedom to marry is not only the right vote to cast; it’s also the politically smart vote to take,” Wolfson said.

Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, echoes those themes.

"The 2012 election illustrated that moderate Americans have largely completed their journey on this issue and now see a lawmaker’s support for marriage as a reason to vote for, not against, that candidate. This latest comprehensive study of the fate of state legislators who voted for marriage makes evident that pro-marriage legislators of both parties can win in districts that span the regional and ideological spectrum,” Cowan said.

Post-election polling in Washington state shows that self-described moderates are more than two times more inclined to vote for a candidate who supports the freedom to marry than one who opposes the freedom to marry. A full 86% of self-described moderates said that a state legislator’s vote for the freedom to marry either made them more inclined to support the legislator (30%) or made no difference (56%). Only 14% said their support made them less likely to support the legislator.

Of the five who lost, two were under investigation for corruption or misuse of taxpayer dollars, so only three of 146 lost without being under an ethics cloud (2%).
At least 85% of the 13 Republican legislators who voted for marriage since the 2010 election did not lose their seats because of it.

Support for the freedom to marry has increased across political lines in recent years. A Feb. 2013 poll by CBS News found that 54% of Americans supported allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

Read the Freedom to Marry and Third Way memo

About Freedom to Marry

Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.