McCain Out Of Sync On Gay Marriage

06/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On the heels of an initiative banning gay marriage qualifying for the November ballot in California, John McCain reiterated his position that he believes in the "unique status of marriage between man and woman," telling a supporter "that's what I support and that's what I will fight for."

But a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted over the weekend suggests most Americans are coming around to the notion that this is no longer a battle worth fighting. Only 33 percent of respondents said the government has the right to pass laws prohibiting two people of the same sex from marrying, with 63 percent saying it is strictly a private decision, according to the poll.

A majority of respondents at every level of education, income, geographic region, and among all age groups except those over 65 deemed same-sex marriage a "strictly private" decision.

Republicans and people who self-identify as politically conservative showed the strongest support for regulation of same-sex marriage, with 56 percent and 54 percent support respectively.

James Vaughn, director of Log Cabin Republicans of California, a gay conservative group, says it's ironic that the "gay agenda" has been used as a bogeyman by some on the far right since the "gay agenda" lines up well with the Republican agenda. Two of the biggest concerns in the gay rights movement are marriage rights (read: strong families) and repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the armed service (read: strong defense), he said.

The national board of the Log Cabin Republicans -- which famously declined to endorse George W. Bush for reelection in 2004 due to his support for a federal amendment banning gay marriage -- has yet to endorse McCain. But at the group's convention in San Diego in April, most members agreed they would be in favor of an endorsement.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Campaign PAC, a gay rights group, attacked McCain for his record on GLBT issues. Scott Tucker, communications director for the Log Cabin Republicans, criticized HRC's report in a blog post, but made no mention of McCain's latest statement against gay marriage.

The California ballot initiative would amend the state constitution and declare "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Signature-gathering began early this year, but the debate over gay marriage exploded when the state supreme court ruled a statute that similarly defined marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for gay marriages in the state starting June 17.

McCain and Barack Obama both support civil unions but not gay marriage, yet they differ in the degree to which they oppose "marriage." In statements released immediately following the California Supreme Court ruling, McCain's camp said the Arizona senator "doesn't believe judges should be making these decisions," while Obama's campaign said the Illinois senator "respects the decision of the California Supreme Court and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage."