Virginia isn’t the only pivotal state where the tide has turned so dramatically. Florida and Ohio, other key swing states in deciding presidential elections, have seen huge transformations in public opinion. Both passed bans on same-sex marriage in the last decade with support from nearly two-thirds of their voters.
But 54 percent of Floridians now back same-sex marriage, according to a poll last year by the Public Religion Research Institute.
It could become a major issue in November elections, with Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposing gay marriage and his likely challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, supporting a court effort to overturn the state’s ban.
Recent polling found that Ohio voters support gay marriage as well. Ohio’s Rob Portman became the first sitting Republican in the U.S. Senate to endorse same-sex marriage last year, quickly followed by Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Portman’s approval ratings dropped after he announced his stance. But that loss of support was just a temporary blip, said Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University. Beck said his state might see a ballot attempt to legalize gay marriage this year.
Republican strategist Ayres said he expected the foreseeable future to be a patchwork of states that allowed same-sex marriage and those that didn’t.
“There’s no question national poll numbers have changed dramatically on the issue. But there is also no question that there are vast differences in the numbers depending upon the state,” Ayers said.
Gay marriage bans are under fire even in the deeply conservative states of Utah and Oklahoma, however. Federal judges in recent weeks struck down their bans as unconstitutional, decisions the states have appealed. There’s also changing public opinion, with Utah voters evenly divided on same-sex marriage in a Salt Lake Tribune poll in January.