LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Opposition to gay marriage in Kentucky has hit its lowest level since 2004 when voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, according to a new Bluegrass Poll.
The poll - conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV - found 50 percent of Kentuckians today are opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
The results mark a dramatic shift from 2004 when a Bluegrass Poll found 70 percent were opposed to gay marriage.
The new Bluegrass Poll results are an even further shift from February when opposition stood at 55 percent.
"Over time, there is clear movement on this issue," said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant. "This poll shows some public movement there."
The poll found support for gay marriage now stands at 37 percent and the remaining 12 percent unsure. While gay marriage opposition decreased five percentage points since February, those formerly in the opposition camp appeared to equally move into the support and not sure categories in the latest Bluegrass Poll. Both increased by two percentage points compared to February.
"I don't know if we have ever seen in the history of this country attitudes change so rapidly toward a divisive issue as they have toward gay marriage," said Sam Youngman, political writer for the Herald-Leader. "Attitudes are changing here just as they have nationally. We don't know how fast that will be, and we don't know what it will look like, say, next year and the governor's race."
The Bluegrass Poll found support for same sex marriages highest among women, those between 18 and 34 years old, and respondents who live in the Louisville, Lexington, and northern Kentucky areas. Opposition was greater among those 50 and over, Republicans, and eastern Kentucky residents.
On August 6, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in two Kentucky legal cases over same sex marriage.
The latest poll results have sparked reactions from folks on both sides of the fence.
"It’s a social trend we are seeing across the United States and I’m glad that Kentucky is not lagging behind," said Paul Brown, President of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization in Lexington.
"I’m concerned to see the slide in the culture. The culture pushes one way and then backs up and I’m not convinced that same sex marriage will preside here in Kentucky,” explained Kent Ostrander, Executive Director of the Family Foundation.
Both did agree that pop culture has played a huge part in shaping people's viewpoints over recent years.
"You have shows like Modern Family that show really strong gay couples," Brown told WKYT.
"If traditional marriage had the same forces pushing toward it then the split would have grown toward traditional marriage since 2004," Ostrander said.
Earlier this year, a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize out of state same-sex marriages.The same judge later struck down the state's entire same-sex marriage ban. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in Louisville concluded that the state's prohibition on same-sex couples being wed violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by treating gay couples differently than straight couples.
Heyburn's ruling was temporarily put on hold as the state appeals.